an After abortion

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Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Another abortion film

Guy Maddin is an indie filmmaker from Canada. Maddin offers sexual defiance, revenge is a review of his 2003 film "Cowards Bend the Knee".

The protagonist is a cowardly hockey player named after Maddin (though played by Darcy Fehr). He runs out on his wife in the middle of her abortion after meeting Meta, the beautiful daughter of the woman who owns the abortion clinic/brothel/salon. He makes love with Meta, only to find out that the seductress wants to use him to take revenge of her mother, who murdered her father and cut off his hands. Understandably, Maddin seems a bit reluctant. However, while he sleeps, Meta arranges an operation that replaces his hands with those of her dead father. And Maddin's new hands seem to have a mind of their own.
This review doesn't mention how the wife dies, or that the brothel/salon is also an abortion clinic, but fills in more plot details:

Focused on a single character, “Guy Maddin”, Cowards is the filmmaker's attempt to maintain his feverish style while removing any hints of kitsch or irony. While his girlfriend Veronica lies dying in the back room of the local hair salon/whorehouse, hockey star Guy abandons her for a mysterious beauty named “Meta”. Although Meta returns his affection, she won't let him touch her until a surgeon replaces Guy's hands with those of her dead father – which are blue from his years of dyeing hair at the salon. The corset-clad, cigar-smoking surgeon fakes the transplant by painting Guy's hands while he's under anaesthetic.

Guy, thinking his hands to be those of Meta's father, can no longer bring himself to touch her in a sexual way. Seemingly possessed by his hands, he becomes a murderer, choking friends and foe alike, vaguely seeking to revenge the death of Meta's father. Meanwhile, a new hairdresser joins the staff – Veronica's ghost. Unaware of her true identity, Guy falls for this new beauty. Not interested in Guy, she falls for his father. Once Guy completes his revenge by strangling Meta's mother, she cools towards him and demands the return of her father's hands. She and the surgeon forcibly remove them. All this comes to a climax when a handless Guy attempts to conjure the help of forgotten hockey heroes in a wax museum to force his father away from Veronica's ghost, who has just accepted his marriage proposal. The figures come to life and instead chase Guy. There is a brief reconciliation between Meta and her father, one of these temporarily-resurrected figures. The nearly delirious Guy now learns that the museum was not for heroes but for cowards, men who were not brave enough to face the prospect of living a day-to-day life with a wife and children. The film closes with Guy now part of the museum himself, one wax figure among many.
An interviewer writes:

The director claims, with disarming sincerity, that this lurid work about a botched abortion, a ferocious Electra complex, and transplanted murderous hands contains the "poetic truth" of his life story.
I buy that, including the Lady MacBethish unclean hands metaphor.

Cowards Bend the Knee portrays abortion as ghoulish. The man whose child is aborted is weak and selfish. He enters into an irreversible nightmare world starting about midway through the abortion. It's noteworthy that his reviewers don't castigate him for treating the film's abortion in an unremittingly dark way, and as the source and cause of the melodramatic horrors that ensue. There are no reviewer footnotes saying, "It's just a 15-minute medical procedure. What's the big deal?"

See Nochnoi Dozor and Palindromes, Vera Drake, and Dumplings for more on 2004's abortion movies.

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