SPOILER ALERT: Please do not read this section if you have yet to see the film.
Reading: It’s All So Quiet
As became clear when I was watching the It’s All So Quiet, and you may have inferred if you read between the lines of my above reaction, the passions and unrequited loves in question are homosexual in nature. For better or worse, when that enters the mix the film, for all else it may be, is usually lumped in LGBT films. That’s completely an affectation of society as there is an unspoken heteronormative mandate in genre cinema.
However, in thinking about this film in that regard, instead of just as a great film, a few things came to mind by way of comparison, things that this film succeeds in doing moreso than many.
When I wrote about North Sea Texas at this time last year I took to task many of the gay-themed tragic love stories. Or, to be more accurate, I took to task the notion that all the stories had to be laced with a sense of tragedy. What North Sea Texas does that I love is offer a light glimmering at the end of the tunnel for those watching it whom may need to see that light there, and know that it’s a possibility.
Not that there hadn’t been great works with a tragic framework, but that needn’t be all of them. When I considered the fact that this was a repressed romance it took me back to Brokeback Mountain. When I discuss that film I have to take care to make sure I don’t sound as if I’m flagellating it. I don’t hate it, though it’d be easier if I did, I think that there are issues with it as well as things about it that are generally overlooked.
One thing that’s fairly apparent in that film is that it is a star-crossed romance. It’s society, as well as the parties involved, that do the repressing. However, one must consider the fact that they do have the occasional, passionate, not-as-delicately-rendered-as-it-could-be tryst. This film has none of that. This film doesn’t have “I wish I could quit you” because nothing ever starts and that’s what makes it a more evocative, bitter and effective film. It speaks to that place that every gay man has been; the closet, to the terrible tongue-tied doubts, to the self-hating silent denials and crying yourself to sleep.
Emotions boil over here on occasion sure, but as a gesture, a slight overture or a half-mumbled utterance directed to a half-conscious, half-dead father and therein lies the power of this film.
It’s a shame, only to a very small extent, that the film was not constructed in a more popularly palatable way because this is the powerful statement about repression and self-ostracism; the loneliness and regret witnessed here. This film paints a sensitive portrait that you’d almost have to bend over backwards to twist into a hateful place. For the danger, the double-edged sword, of the tragic homosexual romance onscreen is that it can be seen as inadvertently reinforcing homophobic societal mores.
In short, the importance of It’s All So Quiet is in its stealth, tender telling the tale of self-repression in a very humanist way. It’s not the only thing the film deals with. It deals with Helmer in all he does, as a whole. However, this man cannot be whole (not through the duration of this film) for he refuses to accept one fraction of his nature. So, though he may seem fine at other times and we see him ably, warmly do other things; there is an underlying sadness that isn’t just due to his father’s infirmity and death. It’s due to this complete portrait of an unfulfilled that dialogue can be furthered, and it’s due to the skill from all aspects of the production of this film that this strong statement can be made.