To see you naked, is to recall the Earth.
There are some lines we all tend to agree with, and without having been given the chance to challenge them, they end up sinking in our subconscious, wrapped in the paralysing blanket of banality. Yet, the line mentioned above, is written by the man who also wrote “I am the immense shadow of my tears”, and that could be no-one else but Federico Garcia Lorca. The trite way of perceiving his first line, would have easily been the stodgy argument which holds that “we are all born this way”. But Lorca could not have meant just that, and until recently, that Mike Leigh’s brilliant sardonicism in his movie Naked (1993) emerged to me, I was not able to elaborate further on the argument either.
Despite the otherwise controversial aesthetics of Leigh, as if he has for long secretly mastered and carefully stored his skills on addressing grotesque romanticism with the most distorted tools of realism, he managed to illustrate the difference between nakedness and nudity. He managed to allegorically summarise in an 130 minutes masterpiece, how nakedness graciously reveals itself whilst nudity can only be placed on display. How the nude is lifetime sentenced to wear the heavy dress of spiritual homelessness, and never succeed to be naked. Two sexually frustrated men (David Thewlis and Gregg Cruttwell) represent the two poles of the dispute: the first roams around the cities, driven by an inexhaustible inner-aggression and an inability to conform to the rules of tenderness, and the second mentally and physically abuses women, being in a far more straightforward position of distorted reality. Since women’s reactions are chosen not to be problematised here, since that was not the point of the film either, when reasoning men’s handling, in the first case cruelty is appreciated as a cry of pain, yet at the second as a demonstration of power, constructed in aberrant terms.
Although a belligerent feeling which realism would easily inspire, characterises the film, -seen from the micrography of the cheap eroticism the permanently torn fishnet-tights of the female protagonist signal, to the terror of the cruelty-smelling and the darkness-grasped streets-, its urban existentialism should not be confused with other examples of radical realist cinematography. Bearing traces of Luc Godard’'s ‘Breathless’, in the way Thewlis is drifting by wit and instinct and fading through a ‘moral wasteland’, what is more felicitous to state is a poetic existentialism, periodically veiled under the most violent dimension of it. The characters are continuously interchanged in a Brechtian manner, as Mike Leigh uses to do, yet although he always creates caricatures whose possible trait is irritation, in this case, regardless their mood variations, characters are forced to generate and be soaked into irritation.
In an interplay of sarcasm with nihilism, of artificiality with intellectual manipulation, where the characters are making fun of seeing their self-created hell falling down in pieces and being generated again, the naked flesh of feeling is absolutely reached. Yet, paradoxically, what is mostly brutal of all, is not the edges the characters are standing on, but the hysterical sounds of loneliness each and one of them finds himself within.The feature (and the condition which differentiates not only the protagonists with each other, but nakedness from nudity too) which makes Thewlis’s aggressive eroticism not to refer to or reinforce any sort of sterile hedonism, is his disillusioned, fully-conscious and intelligence identity as an outlaw. Not necessarily away from law, but away from social conventions.
This kind of nakedness, in consonance with Lorca’s quote, does not point to any wilderness of primitive reflections, but to a well-aimed, acknowledgement that when drain and naked, the violent curvy paths of real life, are better to be followed than any well-paved, secure path of constructed pleasure.
Written and curated by Marianna Serveta
Lensed by Elen Aivali
Special thanks to Diana Kavallieri for the graphic designs of the blog
Featuring “Lily” Dress