I saw Mike Leigh’s “Naked” today. Usually I don’t do this because I like to figure things out myself, but I’m going to ask a question:
The opening shot of the film is handheld—seemingly deliberately shaky—and consists of the camera almost running up to Johnny raping a women in an alley.
The final shot of the film is a smooth dolly shot tracking away from Johny, who is limping very badly.
First and last shots are very often connnected—in this case the camera is moving toward Johnny and shaking a lot in the first shot, whereas in the final shot the camera is pulling away and Johnny himself is shaky (he is limping, as if mimicking the handheld camera in the first shot).
So my question is what is the intent of this correlation.
Or is the appropriate question, “Drew, are you nuts?” Did I make that all up?
Appreciate the help!
“And what is it what goes on in this postmodern gas chamber?” (Johnny)
The future is now. But the present does exist. We’re in it, now. You were just then when you said it, but you’re not in it now, you’re not in it now, you’re not in it now. You’re forever being kicked up the arse by the future. Are you with me?
In the first scene, Leigh wanted a hand-held camera, and in the last Johnny is hurt so he limps. I bet that’s it.
Also, I do not believe Johnny is raping the woman in the beginning. She’s clearly enjoying it until he gets a little rough, starts hurting her, then she gets upset—but Johnny is not a serial rapist. That’s an important point, I think.
I really do think – and have read multiple times – that he is raping the woman in Manchester. He did leave for a reason.
I think the intercourse simply turns bad and rough, it happens again with the girl in the flat, doesn’t it? I used to be a big Mike Leigh fan, but I’ve gone off him a bit – not that that should influence my answer. I think, though, Drew – and far be it from me to assume to know Mike Leigh’s mind – but first and last shots aren’t that related. First and second shots are related, second and third are, but I’ve rarely found a corrollary between first and last shots that wasn’t foisted by lazy directing coughsammendescough. I think the connotation of us moving in at the beginning and away at the end is fairly obvious, we’re being introduced, then we’re saying our goodbyes. It’s a cinematic way of preventing that little shock when we cut to the end titles. Probably, I’m wrong. Ewen Bremner looks bloody young in it, though.
And I’m pretty sure, Miasma, that in an interview on the second Criterion disc, Mike Leigh says it isn’t a rape in the beginning. Many critics called it a rape, by way of dismissing the film as being “about a rapist.” And I believe he leaves Manchester because it’s another man’s girl and he pissed her off to the point where she would tell everyone it was rape. Granted it’s been a year or so since I’ve seen the film, but I’ve had many arguments about “Naked” and have made this argument before. Please, tell me I’m wrong and maybe that guy who dumped me because I liked this film will take me back. (Not really.)
Leigh also mentions in the commentary the shot was improvised during shooting. He noticed the location of the house lent itself perfectly for a tracking shot, pulling away from the house. It may just have been within the natural progression of technically achieving this shot, that he realized dolly was the best option.
I watched Naked this afternoon, and it is really quite a difficult film to watch all the way through.
However, my interpretation of the opening and closing shots is that we are initially introduced to Johnny, the nihilist, the self-hater, as he indulges in rough sex, that turns into rape. The reason i think it’s important to be aware that the grubby back-street sex turns into rape is that Johnny doesn’t understand the difference, he doesn’t care.
Later in the film, when he returns to his ex-girlfriends house and awakens Jeremy, the landlord, he is in a psychotic state reliving a past moment in his life, apparently being beaten or even raped by whom, his father? The point therefore is that Johnny is as much a victim as his victims. His terrible treatment of women is a direct result of his own abusive relationships with adults. All his autodidaticism and violent sexual behaviour is merely a cover for all the pain he has suffered in his life.
The final shot of him limping away from a life of living happily ever after with Louise reminds us that Johnny will never change. Johnny will always limp emotionally through life, and so beaten and bruised he knows he cannot offer Louise the normal love and stability she yearns for, but he at least has the decency to remove himself and continue to plough his own existentialist furrow.
I’ll get behind your reading of this terribly painful film. The scene where Johnny is tossed out into the dark, the cold, by the Girl from the cafe is a moment to shoot out the lights. Thewlis gets the right balance of rage and hurt. The film is full of moments that stain one’s memory. I went back the very next night to see it again, so that I might confirm its brilliance. Brilliance confirmed. That hasn’t happened since.
You must have noticed how many of the scenes are played on or around staircases. What do you suppose is going on there?
Dick Pope’s cinematography- camera placement, lighting, color- was the perfect compliment to this story. Absolutely stunning work.
Staircases for Johnny may just symbolise the choices he makes and whether it is he who takes control of the situation or wether the situation takes control of him. Each time he travels up a staircase it is he who controls through his wit and charm, or violent sexual behaviour. However, whenever he descends the staircase or steps it is often to escape or be removed, from the situation thus control is taken away from him.
Just a thought…
Ok, that’s works.
Just watched this last weekend, and it wasn’t as good as I remember.
Talk more about how you interpreted the scene where Johnny wakes up Jeremy. That Johnny has an abusive past seems a bit of stretch.
What do you guys think about the violence/hostility (almost over-the-top) of the two male characters?
Well, while he’s writhing on the floor, screaming, the only thing I could make out was the line
“…what about me broother…”
This certainly didn’t seem to be a reaction to the beating he had jusr received from the young kids in the alley. I interpreted it as Johnny’s past reawakening itself, and the tears in Louise’s eyes just reaffirmed what she already knew about his past or what she suspected – i.e. he had been the vistim of an abusive childhood.
The violence and hostility of the two male characters I must admit I found hard to understand. It would have been easier to understand if Leigh had used polar opposites, thus making Jeremy a caring, feeling modern southern gentlemen, however, what he presents us with is an upperclass sociopath, who obviously hates women too. The opposite is obviously the class distinction, but beyond that I’m not really sure of the role this character was meant to inhabit within the story. As is often the case in Mike Leigh films some characters end up being a little bit out of the loop due to the semi improvisatory nature of the script and story development. Maybe this was the case with Jeremy?
I barely remember the scene, so I’ll have to re-watch it.
Re: Jeremy and Johnny
The only thing that I could come up with is that Leigh was trying to say that all men, regardless of class, have this pent up pain and violence that often manifests itself in sexual acts. That’s not very satisfying though.
On an unrelated note, listening to commentary from Leigh and one of the actors sort of diminished the film for me. I don’t know if anyone else feels like me, but filmmaker’s interpreting their films often lessens the film in my eyes.
Yes, I rarely listen to commentaries; as Dr Kermode, the great British film critic once said of directors, and I’m paraphrasing
….they made the movie, of course they don’t know what it’s about!
BTW, knowing Mike Leigh (not personally of course) I don’t think the point he would make would be that all men have this “pent up pain and violence”, however, I agree that this is the obvious interpretation and that is why it is so problematic.
My feeling, as I said, is that it is a result of the way the film evolved during its making and maybe it could have done with severe editing, maybe completely removing the character of Jeremy. However, England at that time was full of Jeremys, making the most of a deep recession to better themselves and line their pockets. This was particularly true of the property market where the Tory government had removed many of the regulations protecting tenants, something to which I think maybe Leigh alludes to with the character of Jeremy.
As I said, I’m not happy with the interpretation (a knee-jerk one at that).
I believe Leigh mentioned in the commentary Jeremy was in the film (at least in part) to represent changes in policy regarding property ownership. I think it’s these political references and motivations in the making the film that sort of disappoint me. I have enjoyed Leigh’s films strictly for the universal elements of his film. The more I learn about his politics and the political aspects of the film, the less the films appeal to me.
Leigh belongs to the British social realist group of directors, or in his case as in Ken Loach’s, maybe that should be Socialist Realism. His roots lie in the peculiarly North Western English working class community, a community whose socialist roots are long and deep – hey, Communism was born in Manchester! Leigh’s whole career has been about satirising the middle class and focusing on the more uncomfortable aspects of working class life. So it’s no suprise that so much of his work reflects the polarisation of politics in the UK, particularly during the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. And all the better for it in my opinion.
“Naked’s landlord is a caricatured embodiment of the borderline-psychopathic exploitative individualist mindset that Thatcherism supposedly encouraged (cf., on the other side of the Atlantic, American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman).” Criterion Forum
I’m always disappointed when a character’s manias are explained away with a bad childhood. As if it’s a weapon against Johnny. Slit your eyes, nod condescendingly, pat his shoulder and say “I see what it is.” Can someone end up like him without a closet full of skeletons?
Did Sandra completely take anybody else outta the movie at the end? After Johnny’s trip through hell we get her? I found quite a bit of the film and Johnny’s cruelty over the top as well. The thing that got me the most was so simple: Johnny insults Brian and his little cottage. After their night in the “space” together, Johnny seemed almost friendly. Brian is so pathetically sad and he’s ripped apart in two seconds. That was mean. Also the girl who kicks him out. Sad from the beginning.