Saturday, 17 March 2007

Love Me 4

I've been analyzing a number of films lately.
One of these was Monster, which charts the descent of a woman into serial killing.
It's fascinating to see this journey laid out into scenes. From memory, here's how the viewer is invited to empathize and even sympathize with a serial killer:

1) Dreams:
Aileen as a young girl, dreaming of fame and fortune. Yes, this serial killer was once a young girl, and she believed in a bright future just as you or I did. A young girl with hope; a young girl who desired a kind and happy future.
Her mother dashes these dreams with a firm hand.
Young Aileen retreats into a fantasy world.

2) A Good Time:
On the brink of suicide, the adult Aileen storms into a bar determined to spend her last five dollars (earned from prostitution) on beer. She is befriended by Selby, a young woman who has already been introduced as an unhappy loner (sat alone, desperate for company). Aileen has no money (a broke, suicidal, homeless prostitute - fits the underdog mould perfectly. Like Travis Bickle [Taxi Driver], Aileen has an awful job; Travis lived in a crummy apartment, Aileen is on the street.). Selby buys the beers and Aileen spends the night (innocently) in Selby's bed.

3) First Date:
Aileen and Selby go rollerskating. They kiss. Now they are both happy and have something to look forward to! (And, of course, they will be destroyed). They arrange to meet the following night to spend a night of passion together in a motel room.

4) Lady Luck Need A Ride? + 5) Stood Up:
Here we go. Aileen wants to pay for the room herself. All she knows is prostitution. A client drives her into the woods and rapes and beats her. Meanwhile, Selby is sat outside the rollerskating rink, all alone, waiting for her lover. Expectant.
Her life in mortal jeopardy, Aileen takes the client's gun and shoots him dead. She does this out of self-defence. She had no choice. She has killed.

6) I Quit Hookin + 7) All You Need Is Love:
Well, the money and car from the deceased client sure come in handy!
We learn about Aileen's past. She was ritually raped. Her father beat her for saying she was being raped. She became a hooker at thirteen. She became pregnant and gave the child away. Her family rejected her.
Tough life: young teenager all alone, no money, hated by family, badly treated.
These scenes are about money - survival. Aileen turned to prostitution not by choice but out of necessity. Having narrowly avoided death, Aileen decides to quit prostitution.
With Selby's arm in a cast, and her parents angry at her, she has no lifeline.
All they have is love. No money. And Selby is growing unhappy.
Aileen tries to find honest work. But fails - is insulted - and is forced to give a cop satisfaction to avoid a beating. People are bad.
Aileen does not want to lose the one thing that is important to her. She is emotionally driven.

8) Call Me Daddy:
So Aileen returns to prostitution.
Her next client is another weirdo. He wants to create a father-daughter thing.
Aileen sees him as detestable. That's how people are aren't they!
Nonetheless, she goes through mental torture as she makes the decision ...
She shoots him dead.
Kill them 'cos they're all bad = More money = Keep Selby.

9) I Love You:
And all of this murdering is fuelled by Selby's happiness.
Note that Aileen says 'I Love You' first.
Then Selby responds with the same line.
So the cycle is perpetuated. It ain't stopping anytime soon.

10) New Friends + 11) They're Coming For Us:
But Selby is getting claustrophobic in the relationship.
She borrows the car to go see some friends.
Aileen is furious. The car is stolen!
Aileen wants to protect Selby from the truth.
But now Selby is involved.
Aileen reveals the truth and convinces Selby that people are bad and can be killed for money. She still has her peace with the Lord after all.

NB. Somewhere around here, Aileen is with a client. She attempts to incite him into violent behaviour so that she might be justified in killing him. But he is a decent guy; he is nervous - this is first time. He's just lonely! Aileen does not kill him.

12) The Cop:
Thus far, the clients that have been murdered have been depicted as evil or twisted - the scum of humanity and unworthy of life.
This is all gonna change.
Would Aileen's moral code allow her to kill a man whose sin is cheating on his wife?
And, on rummaging through his wallet, Aileen finds a cop badge.
So far, Aileen has gotten away with her crimes. After all, the people she has murdered would hardly warrant a widescale manhunt. But now a cop/ex-cop is dead.
The countdown begins. Tick, tock ...

13) You Don't Have To Do This:
Aileen's next client is a lovely man. He does not want anything from Aileen. Moreover, he offers her a room for the night; he offers her assistance.
He is on his knees, crying selflessly for his poor wife and pregnant daughter.
He is not bad. Aileen is torn. She cannot live in her fantasy world now.
She kills him. The line is crossed.

14) Alone:
Yet we still see her humanity. Aileen sends Selby away in order to protect her. Aileen has sacrificed her life of love for another.

15) Love Conquers All:
Captured, imprisoned, sentenced to death. In her final phone call to Selby, Aileen continues to protect her lover.
She killed for love. She died for love.

So we see a character who is emotionally driven.
We are invited to see the killer's pov: the people she encounters are corrupt and immoral; they are cops and clergy and shopkeepers and ordinary homemakers.
The people she bonds with are, like her, outcasts - lonely and kind and penniless.
We are cleverly coerced into taking sides - into bonding with an unfortunate - a loving, caring woman who would take her own life.
This side is good. This side is evil.
Okay, I'll join the good side.
Hah! Got you! You wait and see what your side is gonna do ..!

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