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"safe" (1995) - todd haynes
posted on 11-Oct-2002 by anton
safe is the film that I had a hard time pinning down in my mind. at first I saw it as perfectly atmosphere-setting piece that slowly alters reality, subtly tackling the issue of environmental pollution. this part is absolutely fantastic; haynes is great when it comes to creating unsettling ambience.

on another hand, the second part of the film feels awkward, pieced together. the director ventures off into the world of documentary and satire; his characters lose their surreal quality, becoming absolutely prosaic. the movie loses its momentum; it seems that the director tried to coerce it back into the path of conventional movie, wondering if he went too far in his art house mood-creating.

for a few days afterwards I have been watching my favorite pieces, framing them in my memory. there have been a lot of research put into the making of moore's character, but I refuse to accept this dry attention to detail, acknowledging them as pieces of a puzzle slowly coming together. I come to compromise and allow myself to indulge in the delicious eerie absurdity of the first part, denying the existence of the last half an hour.

safe has one of the most fitting soundtracks i have heard in the longest time - abundance of strings and dark fluid textures that work so perfectly with the atmosphere of the movie. it is one of those cases when the imagery is absolutely inseparable in my mind from the music.

I let the film become an abstraction, an atmosphere in itself - human puppets, ominous sequence of events falling into some unknown pattern; increasing sense of tension and alienation of the main character to the point (and this is the best about this film) when everything seems to be completely, absolutely artificial, unreal, staged. moore is incredible in this role of timid, soulless, empty creature - at times it becomes almost grotesque, caricature-like; but i still cannot resist those moments when during a perfectly "normal" episode there is something in the back of your head that tingles with tension that is steadily mounting (the noise of the radio, the noise of banal babble, the "noise" of sonic and chemical pollution). before you know it, the reality around her warps like burning piece of film, and all you can hear is her wheezing drowned in dark ambient textures, and all that occupies your attention is her face that is a mask of terror and emptiness. those are my favorite moments in the whole film - the world around her breaking, falling apart until she retreats in her sterile room with an oxygen mask. the tickling seduction of danger, building threat of the unknown that never manifests itself completely.

perhaps this is the evidence of inexperienced director, or perhaps I am simply missing the point; in any case this is the work that is absolutely worth watching just for the first hour, I can hardly think of any other film that recreates such an intense feeling of urban emptiness and despair.

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