Thursday, 25 February 2010

Dr Jones' Feminist Film Nights: A Question of Silence.

Image from Wikipedia (VHS cover).

I graduated in 2007 with a pretty good degree in English Literature and Classics and unfortunately ever since this momentous achievement absolutely nothing in my adult life has quite matched up. This is probably why I still hang out at all my old student haunts and feel comfort just knowing that the uni library is only a stone's throw away from my flat. Its probably also why I agreed to go to a feminist film screening at my old Eng Lit department the other night. Well that and the promise of the booze afterwards - old student habits die hard, after all. But oh how I was hit with a wave of nostalgia as I entered the huge cavernous lifts of DHT, thrilled by the prospect of 95 minutes of gritty 80's militant Dutch feminist cinema in a windy Soviet classroom, so in keeping with the style of Edinburgh University's 70's architecture.
The film in question was conveniently called 'A Question of Silence'. No I hadn't heard of it either. And a film set in 80's Amsterdam that revolves around a single day when three women who have never met each other before kill a male boutique owner doesn't exactly sound like the most exciting prospect, and put it this way it was no Beaches. And yet despite the questionable acting, the stilted choreography of many of the scenes, the unintentional humour (a particular favourite was the doctor describing the poor boutique owner's injuries, 'his genitals were unrecognisable') and the 80's safety video music, there was something to be said for this wee film.
Sure it was completely saturated with all the themes us feminist/post-feminist/post-apocalyptic ladies are well versed in; sexism in the work place, domesticity, voicelessness, the tyranny of body image, ruddy male condescension (and from the Netherlands no-less, a place I'd always considered quite civilised)- I could go on. But it occurred to me that it had to be this way in the 80's because our second wave sisters were coming up against the sort of misogyny that's now taken for granted. These days its simply unfashionable to say the word we inherited from our foremothers' struggle - Feminism. And why and for what? So that we could champion Cheryl Cole as 'the nation's sweetheart', so Kate Moss could be lauded for having the 'perfect' body, so Katie Price could be crowned 'Mother of the Year'? None of this is feminism.
Now its feminism through the back door and we come out the other side holding hands with Susie Orbach and spouting nonsense about 'body issues'. So in light of this 'A Question of Silence' is a painful reminder of the hard-fought - not won battles - of a feminism which wasn't afraid to be a little bit difficult, a little bit political, hell a little bit angry with men! But if all that's just a little bit too difficult for you there's always the lesbian/sexual tension subplot and as previously mentioned, the awesome 80's safety video music soundtrack.

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