GERRY (Gus Van Sant, 2003)

You know a film is special when it uses so little to say so much, and so much as to make it an emotional experience minus an actual narrative. Gus Van Sant (possibly the best American director working today) delves so far into allegory that “Gerry” becomes something more than a film. And its hard to not watch “Gerry” with awe, as we the viewer is treated to some of the most gorgeous cinematography in American film post-2000 while banking in on a very powerful study of isolation-induced mental pain. It’s easy to brand “Gerry” as a boring film based on what is seen at the surface, but when looking deeper, the film is a testing ground for human struggle. A man vs. self conflict that gains its power by using physical pain to symbolize the mental aspects, and in this case, of sexual insecurity. And Gus Van Sant’s incredible use of symbolism in the photography, the dialogue, the actual title of the film, and the brutal ending comment, not only on the personal homosexual aspect of Van Sant’s story, but also on that of the viewer who faces this journey head-on for the tedious, yet influential experience it is.

To get the full impact of the film, one must think of who Gerry actually is. We are presented in the film with two men, both named Gerry; and we barely see anymore people except for a few outsiders on the path the two characters walk on. It would be best to see that the two Gerry’s are really one person, and that the outsiders are really just those who are pushed away, and fail to realize their existence. The true Gerry of the film is a man who is outside of the film, while the film is really a symbol for his own sexual insecurity (the two Gerry’s in the film symbolizing the two emotional battles within him). The fact that the true Gerry could very well be a teenager becomes relevant through the dialogue and acting (which includes a discussion on video games by the two characters, who both feature teen characteristics) and this is also an important set-up for the film’s final scene. This is, bluntly, the lost struggle of a man, whose true sexual identity has become isolated; lost in this world that is eaten up by rock, sand, wind, and the bluest of sky.

Many have questioned by view on this, but I think it holds its ground seeing as the film includes many scenes that hint at the topic such as a discussion about which direction to go (symbolizing the confusion of whether to be gay, straight, or bi) to a scene where one Gerry is stranded miraculously and mysteriously on a rock. “I’ll make a bed and you can jump,” the other Gerry says. “It should break the fall.” This also leads up to the climax and resolution of the film which shows a battle with both Gerry’s, which involves a highly sexualized, homoerotic, yet brutal strangulation one Gerry does on the other. But what makes this death the more chilling is when the strangled Gerry nods his head for the killing to go on. This shows that the actual Gerry may have found his footing, he has fought this inner battle, and has chosen a path to be on. And as we get our final scene, we see the living Gerry making it out of the desert alive (finding the right path), in the back seat of a car, being stared at by what seems to be an angry father, maddened at his child. Could this be Gerry’s “coming out”? Could the Gerry that lived symbolize the homosexuality that the true Gerry was repressing? (Think back to an earlier scene in which the dead Gerry stares out at the mirage of the other Gerry. Could this be him looking at this homosexuality as something fake – i.e. shameful?)

All in all, “Gerry” is open to many, many interpretations, but knowing Gus Van Sant as a gay director who connects well with gay audiences (many of his films feature homosexual and/or homoerotic themes) I feel that what I see “Gerry” as, in this case an internal presentation of a repressed gay man, is very justified. And this also leads up to why “Gerry” is, to me, one of the greatest allegorical stories ever filmed.

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~ by jerkwoddjh on May 11, 2009.

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