Boxing Helena (1993) Jennifer Lynch

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From David Lynch to Jennifer Lynch, and all by accident. I didn’t even know David Lynch had a daughter, yet alone one who is a this talented a filmmaker. I was sad to see that so many people buried this movie when it came out. Jennifer Lynch even got a Razzie award for it. Such a visceral reaction to a visceral movie. The press butchering a female director who created a movie about a woman being butchered. Poetic irony. I wonder how much of the hate was due to the fact that she was 25 at the time and David’s daughter. It got so bad that Jennifer stepped away from directing for over a decade.

 These last two movies weren’t planned, just a lucky accident. But sometimes the universe works in mysterious ways (if you pardon the mini ego trip). I been circling this movie for a while, even since I heard the Misfits song. Friday the 13th was last Friday and not really in a mood to watch a horror film I settled for this movie. While described as an erotic thriller, it has a lot of real-life horror elements, that a lot of women are familiar with. Onto the movie!

Nick is a young and talented surgeon, but early one we get some glimpses into early childhood trauma or misunderstandings. There are some Oedipus elements to him. There are many shots of him remembering his mother either naked or with other men. Another thing that we learn from his flashbacks is his family motto: “Hard work and persistence will get you everything that you desire” You couldn’t have said that to a worse person.

To celebrate his latest brilliantly successful surgery he and his friend go out for a drink. There he sees Helena again, for the first time after a while. His reaction upon seeing her is so visceral. He looks shell shocked. This monumental urge presses upon him, and he forgets everything. The obsession starts to spread within him like wildfire. Ignoring his girlfriend, he goes looking for Helena. Even climbs a tree next to her window and watches her undress. But she isn’t alone, and he stricken with jealousy, pain and general madness he runs away.

They must have been in one long and complicated relationship, you might think. But no, it was just a one-night stand. From what we learn later, it was barely even that. That is, if you count 5 seconds of sex a one-night stand. He obsessed with her after that nonstop. Staying faithful to his family motto, he was persistent and tried hard to win her over. She said no, over and over again.

And after seeing her, he switches back to this previous incarnation. She finally caves in and attends his party. Everyone is struck by her. And its hard not to, Sherilyn Fenn is breathtaking in this movie. This role truly propels her into the Femme Fatale hall of fame, if there is such a thing. (There should be such a thing, lets be honest). Helena toys with Nick, seduces his friend and after taking a dip in his fountain leaves, Nick’s friend in hand. But she forgot something at Nick’s place. Hubris leads to her fall.

She misses her flight because of Nick, and during one of their arguments, a car hits her, breaking both of her legs. Now, you would think, at least Nick is a trained, specialized doctor who will help her right away and make sure she survives. Maybe even operate on her legs and save them. Right? But no. Nick takes her back inside, and “to save her” amputates her legs. Now she can’t run away. This magnificent force of nature, a spirit as free as they come is being brutally chained. Later on, he even removes her hands. But it doesn’t really matter. No matter how much he hurts her and limits her, she’s still superior to him. Every verbal exchange they have, she wins it. No matter how small or limited, she raises above him, always demonstrating the power of her spirit. To Nick, love is dependance. He needs her to be completely dependent on him. That is how love is in his screwed-up brain. And he is relentless, trying to break her, so she can finally fall for him.

In one of the most disturbing scenes, he hires a prostitute and has sex with her while Helena has to watch. And why did he do it? For her, like everything else.  Towards the end you feel like he’s breaking her, like her Stockholm Syndrome kicks in.

There is a twist at the end of the movie, and some might be put off by it. To me it doesn’t really matter. We see who Nick is and what he is both capable and willing of doing. And that’s what matters. He is a monstrosity on two legs.

Jennifer Lynch crafted a very impactful erotic thriller, sadly still very relevant today, especially with all the abortion discourse in various countries around the world. The only thing that might break the spell from watching is the awkward use of overdubbing.


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