What's your view of the movie "Safe"?
November 5, 2011 4:22 PM   Subscribe

What's your view of the movie "Safe"?

A bit of a debate took place in my house today, regarding the Todd Haynes film,"Safe". My opinion is that the main character's affliction stemmed from an deep emotional void in her life - her sensitivity and symptoms were simply a manufactured outward projection, resulting from an inner rage and frustration created by her life's emptiness. The other view is that everything she was experiencing was very real, resulting from actual chemical reactions that are hard to diagnose.

If you've seen the movie, which view do you have? And, is it possible both interpretations are valid? I do realize some people have extreme sensitivity to chemicals - I'm only curious about this fictional character and the intent of the director.
posted by davebush to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It's been years since I saw it and I've been trying to get a hold of it again (what of it, Netflix?) but my interpretation was as follows. Whether a biological process or a psychosomatic one, it was the outside world that had become too overwhelming and had created her sickness. In other words, she was not just crazy or projecting; she was reacting in a reasonable fashion to the very real sickness of the modern world.
posted by tetralix at 4:29 PM on November 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

I thought that the character was actually sick but that it wasn't being actually caused by the chemicals so much as her revulsion towards what was happening to the world around her.
posted by marimeko at 4:37 PM on November 5, 2011

Sorry, "..wasn't being caused"
posted by marimeko at 4:39 PM on November 5, 2011

I agree with you davebush.
posted by joannemullen at 4:41 PM on November 5, 2011

the intent of the director

The intent of the director is that you supply your own understanding. If he thought a definitive take was best, he would have given one. He absolutely didn't.
posted by dobbs at 4:42 PM on November 5, 2011 [5 favorites]

Which of course is why people are still watching and talking about the movie 16 years later, unlike many other indie movies made that year.
posted by dobbs at 4:43 PM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

dobbs is correct.
posted by languagehat at 5:03 PM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

As per the last few posts, the film deliberately leaves this matter open to interpretation. The film is about the difficulty of assigning cause, and the way symbols can be open to interpretation.

If you watch carefully, however, it's pretty clear she's severely allergic to milk, has an empty suburban life lacking any real connections and genuinely doesn't enjoy sex.
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 5:45 PM on November 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

Thanks for reminding me of this movie. I interpreted it as she's seriously separated from the natural world and has no real connection to life anymore, and her illness seemed simultaneously psychosomatic and real. I interpreted the retreat center's treatment (e.g. saying "I love you" into the mirror) as a criticism of new age-y, self-absorbed, disengaged approaches to a situation that requires outward action and serious engagement. In other words, the mindset behind the "treatment" was one cause of the problem. But I agree that the movie could be interpreted in any number of ways.
posted by ceiba at 7:22 PM on November 5, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: The genius of Safe is in its deliberate ambiguity. You can read the film as an existential horror film, a scathing and bitter satire of the middle classes' new age fetishisation of allergies, or a straight-up drama about a depressed woman poisoned by modern life. But no matter which reading you choose, you will, at various points during the film, be challenged to reassess your decision.
posted by hot soup girl at 11:35 PM on November 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

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