Finite Focus: Death and the Maiden (The Rules of Attraction)

Rules of Attraction - One SheetHappy Valentine’s Day folks. To prove that a few of us in the third row have a bit of a macabre sense of humour and romance, todays finite focus continues the theme of teen suicide.

When we were recording Cinecast #78, the subject of Roger Avery‘s adaptation of Brett Easton Ellis‘ college-sex-love-pain satire The Rules of Attraction came up. The film seems to have more detractors than defenders, although I lay in the latter camp. There is a style, one that is often relentless, and the willingness to go for the gut punch without undermining the characters (which float between cardboard types yet have so many ‘human touches’ on display too, particularly the ability to hurt others so unconsciously and yet be hurt so easily). There are easily three, perhaps even more, knock out scenes in the film. The other two are Victor’s European vacation montage, as well as a split-screen sequence that ends with two characters (and their respective split screens) merging as they meet.

But I want to focus on this particular on screen suicide (yay Valentine’s Day). The scene is glamourized to the point where it is completely irresponsible. But before we get all high and mighty about the this sort of thing consider that the film (and for that matter most of Ellis‘ novels) is giving us satire; and unfortunately satire is often a misunderstood art. On display for this sequence is the pop song “Without You” providing a cozy soundtrack; along with close-up shots of Theresa Wayman‘s face, a mix of sadness, pain, desire, resignation (?); ; fetishizing the event by lighting candles; a shot of jewelry and a razor blade; explicit opening of veins; a bathtub of blood with artfully deceased body; and finally, a nice cinematic short-hand of the drops of water running, running, slowing, stopping. It is a tour-de-force sequence of pointless and selfish angst elevated to epic tragedy. And the kicker is that this character does not even have a name, barely any of the other characters in the film even notice her up to the point where she is a dead body. Yes, it’s dark. But I will vouchsafe that it is great pop-art too. I think Andy Warhol would be proud.

Check the video out behind the cut.

Kurt Halfyard
Resident culture snob.