(TW for discussion of harassment, rape)
Welp, I’ve now finished “Bellflower” and, indeed, it does take an interesting tern. The film, in my eyes, is about an all-out macho man who uses his hands to create dazzling machines that will help in his dream end-of-the-world sceneario akin to “Mad Max,” something he and his best friend dream of living within.
Of course, our lead character falls in love. He falls in love with a woman at a bar who is paid (it appears) to do things daringly on Wednesday nights. Impressed by her machismo, our lead falls for her. Turns out, though, that she cheats on him. He is heart broken.
The two female leads are blonde white women. A dark haired woman is harassed at a party. She flips her shit on the man that grabbed her ass without her permission. She then becomes the butt of a joke by our lead characters, and is later called a “bitch,” also for comedy (because they’re drunk!)
But, back to our main story. So, our lead’s best friend decides that this girl, Milly, must be purged from his life. What follows is a dream sequence where Woodrow (our lead) is beat up, dates the other lead, and eventually gets revenge on his ex by raping her (written as sex on the wikipedia page!), leaving her covered in blood.
At the end of the film, Woodrow is given a story by his best friend, that if they leave this life behind, they can be the men they want to be, where men can be aggressive and women will crave them for it. It’s framed in quite a depressing light.
Yet, as the credits roll, we see Woodrow and his best friend being the macho men they have sought to be. In the desert on their own, they are free.
The film, technically, looks great (although, the orange hue that is fairly constant is akin to Michael Bay’s awful orange), and reminded me a lot of the mood “Drive” evokes. I have similar problems with “Drive.” Whenever I talk about that film with anyone, I refrence that the single slow motion kill in the film is that of Christina Hendricks. It is a close up. Her brains scattered across the screen, it is important that we hold on this. The framing of this violence is very different from the framing of the violence in the rest of the film. Why not any other character?
This confusion of violence and sex, something Hollywood has had a long history with, is something that, for many, is utterly gripping. Watching “Bellflower,” I’m thinking of what guys I know would think of the film. They’d think Woodrow got fucked over. They would think that building a flamethrower is badass, that Milly, the woman that dumps him, was hot but deserved what takes place on screen.
Perhaps this change of heart at the end brings in to question the images we see in cinema. Frequently, they mention that “the movies,” made them do what they do. Woodrow is frequently wearing a shirt that has “HOLLYWOOD” written on the back of it. This is a dialogue I’m very interested in, and something I think about a lot when I’m writing my own scripts. But, can you frame this sexism in a seductive light and then turn the other cheek? Can you frame assault as something deserved and then question it at the very last possible second? It feels cheap, to me. The directors, themselves, are seduced by the images they appear to be fighting.
Does this ultimately get to the conclusion that we want, as people looking for images that challenge the status quo? Personally, with “Bellflower” (and “Drive,” for that matter), I do not think so. But, the conservation is an open one.