An affluent and unexceptional homemaker in the suburbs becomes allergic to her environment – car fumes, the dry-cleaners and even the new couch. Welcoming retreat, she finally ends up in a creepy New Age healing center.
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More than any other, Safe is the film in which Haynes' frostily meticulous eye for visual perfection achieves a trembling, terrible balance between allegorical abstraction and an empathy so deep and wide you could drown in it. Much of the credit goes to Moore, but every last element serves Haynes' vision of selves and systems choking on their own and others' fumes, desperate to get clear, to be able to breathe here.
Are you allergic to the 20th century? Oh, man... theoretically, Safe argues with some of my favorite topics: urban neurosis, the crack of perfect lives, social propaganda: but somehow I just can't love this. And, to me, Moore does not bring it to the table - it's bland barbie doll with no twist. I wish Haynes had taken it even further - pushing Carol and his subject to their limits. At the end, Safe felt safe.
The allegory to the AIDS crisis is obvious, but viewed through a different lens, Carol's condition seems less like an illness and more like a very relatable suburban existence. Haynes pulls off his vision more fully in the first half of the film when the eerie soundtrack is juxtaposed with the idyllic San Fernando Valley. I really enjoyed the long shots where Carol was consumed by the gaudy home and landscaping.
The pastel-colored modernist set design and the eerie suburban bubble she's in, gives a very stepford wife vibe. The switch from that to olive green filters really shows the character's slow deterioration and paranoia without the need of jump scares. Truely a haunting quiet psychological horror film.
Hadn't seen it since it was in the theater. I was basically a kid. But it has stayed with me and, in fact, has grown in power as a condemnation of a society (within a society) that takes people who have been alerted to the fact that they are alive by the failing of their bodies (in the AIDS era) and forces them to have a self around which to make everything revolve. O, horrendous self trap.
SAFE is an incredibly intense film, with such absorbing visuality and hypnotic sonic qualities that you might find yourselves feeling sick – like Carol – after the experience. Masterful execution and vision from Todd Haynes, proving (again) what a great filmmaker he is. A tough watch, though. Hard to love.
It has an array of deja-vu, but that's probably because it was so influential at the time every single filmmaker have wanted to equal it in its brutal, extremely original depiction of contemporary suburban life and modern alienation. An americanized response to Antonioni's brilliant 'Il Deserto Rosso'.