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“Why is sexual harassment so prevalent yet so hard to talk about?” wonders one of the characters of She Saidthe film that reconstructs the investigation of two journalists of New York Times who, five years ago, impeached producer Harvey Weinstein, unleashed the #Metoo and opened a global discussion on an entire system of behavior within work relationships and beyond. In reality, cinema has often found the words – and images – to tell of harassment, abuse and, in the most dramatic circumstances, violence. In some cases producing masterpieces, in others just good intentions. She Saidwhich is being presented these days at the Turin Film Festival and will be in Italian theaters in January, is above all a film on investigative journalism and on how the two reporters – played by Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan – managed to get women talking who for years, sometimes decades, they had kept the secret of their abuse to themselves.
More than thirty years ago, it was released in the cinema Under accusation by Jonathan Kaplan – you can find it on PrimeVideo – which in 1989 won Jodie Foster her first Oscar for best actress. It told with great rawness the story of a gang rape and the trial that followed. The script was inspired by a news story that happened a few years earlier in Massachusetts. In some ways, it is an epochal film because for the first time it looked beyond the issue of the crime called sexual violence and denounced: classism, misogyny and what is now called “victim blaming”. Under accusation demonstrated better than many documentaries and journalistic stories what it meant and what it still means, in the courts and in the current thinking of society, that abominable reversal of roles in which the victim is asked “how were you dressed?”, “how did you react ?”, “were you drinking?”, “were you on drugs?” and also “how was your conduct up to that point?”. That is: if you are a “bad girl”, violence is the least that can happen to you.
Self Under accusation is one of the most successful films in bringing these aspects into focus, In bed with the enemy – 1991- told in an explicit, disturbing way of domestic abuse, the ones that don’t even get there in court. The young Julia Roberts, immediately after the great success of pretty woman, here she plays the wife of a wealthy finance man – Patrick Bergin -. All is well outside the house but within the walls of the beautiful villa they live in, fear and terror reign, to the point that the poor girl pretends to be dead to escape and try to rebuild another life.
Outside of Hollywood cinema, it is certainly the strongest and most incisive film on the subject Irreversible by Gaspar Noé, with Monica Bellucci. The rape scene in a Paris subway tunnel is almost unbearable. At the first screening of the film, at the Cannes Film Festival now twenty years ago, many spectators walked out. Many critics accused Noé of having made a pornographic film. Today Irreversiblealso for its construction at rebours – the rape is at the beginning, the film goes back to tell us about the personalities and relationships between the characters -, it is considered a cult movie. And it is precisely this backwards story that underlines how irremediable violence is, irreversible, in fact, capable of completely altering the course of existence, the very direction of life.
Instead, the fortunes of Roger Ailes, chairman of Fox News, proved to be quite reversible, whose downward trend is told in Bombshell – 2018 movie, now on Netflix- . Following the Weinstein case, Ailes was also thrown out by his master – Rupert Murdoch – but first of all three women who worked with him thought of dethroning him, here played by Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie.
More than a film about harassment or violence, it is a film about what produces it: sexism. Sexism is a type of prejudice that affects people of every social class, of every political party, of every cultural stature. The bias is so insidious that even women can be affected. Bombshell it’s interesting, it goes beyond the simplistic idea of a film of denunciation, it goes further and looks in depth, at the roots, if not of the evil, certain of a malaise that we have not yet got rid of, not even in our advanced West.