Friday, August 31, 2007
Michael Benton: Response to I Am a Sex Addict
The style of this film includes interweaving personal narratives, historical and cultural asides, metanarrative reflections, recursive recounting of events, pseudo-documentary expositions and re-enactments. The narrator is engaging and personable, revealing his weaknesses and faults, yet engaging us with his honesty and courage, while still exposing his ignorance. It leads to me wonder how I often mask my own desires and needs, if only we all were so honest (but then he is never truly honest with himself, no matter how desperately he tries)? This is a philosophical film about addiction.
There are moments in the narrative progression when I feel, along with Caveh, shocked by this honesty, this raw emotional and physical need, but at the same time I am exhilarated by the possibilities of expressing one's dark side and having it accepted. We see the downside of the repression of our inner needs when he sacrifices his first true love for Anna because Caroline will throw herself out the window—his discursion on the “saint” complex hit way to close to home and made me angry? regret? confused? at some of the things I did under the same misguided notion of rightness. Later we are presented with the full enactment of his so-called true desire, he is with an Asian prostitute and he finally acts out his aggressive sexuality and feeling somewhat guilty is amazed that she pats him on the ass and says come again… having someone, anyone seeing you for what you are, beneath all of those layers, and having them accept it, or at least not be horrified… is exhilirating and liberating for him; of course, any thinking person must question this exchange, it is so loaded with inequality, perhaps intentionally so? In this we realize that this is his exchange with a prostitute and the ugly nature of the exchange, but still it speaks to the anxieties we all suffer in letting our supressed nature/needs becoming “completely” exposed and the dsyfuntional/abusive outlets that result from repression. Did sex become linked to power or did power link itself to sex (and in a capitalist world we are talking about money, for some drugs, material goods, and other means)?
Then there is the neediness of human relationships, the struggle to be with someone without trying to control them, to love them and let them be who they are… which would include letting them fulfill their needs in the ways that they want. We see this in Caveh’s second relationship with Christa where he struggles to come to terms with his outside sexual desires, and, when he does, his befuddlement, jealousy and anger when his lover then becomes enamored with a mutual friend. Of course in the context of this narrative this seems ridiculous to us that he would be jealous/angry, but then who amongst us has not had what we want and when we want it, then decide that a person we are with shouldn’t do the same? Once again, the struggle to come to terms with desire and needs in the context of freedom and openness—are there boundaries, who defines them and redefines them, why and when?
In his first conversations with Devin, who we think he has fallen in love with and who has a much more honest/direct understanding of impulses/desires than Caveh does. She calls him on his assumptions and how he continues to play out what he detests in conventional society—why would he anguish over Christa that night… why not wish she is having the time of her life, which makes all the more sense because Caveh is laying next to Devin as she tells him this… is his jealous keeping him from finding happiness?
Then there is the struggle in our minds/souls for pleasurable pursuits on the purest level of sensation (and this is about addiction, not just sex) and the opposite need for longstanding developments of understanding and meaning. Where will either be found—will they war with each other throughout our lives—will one conquer and suppress the other—or is it possible to achieve a rapprochement between and through these dueling impulses? In the repression of our true needs (out of fear, anxiety, shame) do we continuously end up with the wrong people (and this applies to those of us with long series of broken relationships as well as those that quietly suffer through one or two)? It is in the struggle between Caveh and Devin to define some boundaries that this weird and twisted attempt to reach through the sado-masochistic reality of dueling impulses of love/hate, desire/revulsion, acceptance/rejection (is Devin’s alcoholism really any worse than Caveh’s obsession with sex?) is played out in a twisted macabre sense, they obviously care about each other, but…. It is in his regret when he states that he once read somewhere that everyone that comes into our lives is a mirror for something inside us that we are not seeing and he wonders how Devin acted as that mirror. How are the people that we desire, that we lust after, that we need, a reflection of our fears/anxieties/submerged-desires? What are the patterns that we re-enact because we don’t confront submerged feelings/repressions? Is there the possibility of coming to terms with our shadow?
This is, I think, the central question of the film, and so brilliantly explored, even with the happy conclusion of Caveh finding his bliss… but I am skeptical...