the fresh films reviews

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The Woodsman (2004)

Nicole Kassell
The Woodsman
87 minutes
Lee Daniels
Screenwriter (based on a play by Steven Fechter):
Steven Fechter
Nicole Kassell

Cast includes:

Walter Kevin Bacon
Vicki Kyra Sedgwick
Carlos Benjamin Bratt
Sgt. Lucas Mos Def
Rosen Michael Shannon



The Woodsman has been hailed for being audacious and brave, challenging one of the greatest "demons" of our time, pedophilia. Still, this film is only daring because of the general public's prejudiced attitude to its subject, meaning that what is audacious here is even making a film about a child molester in the first place and treating him as a human at the same time. Some might say that doing so is more than they bargained for, but compared to most other living things on this planet, there are few faults more human than pedophilia.

Kevin Bacon deals well with his character, he finds the right tone to it, but his soul and mind still remain quite unsearched throughout the film. This is the major disappointment with Kassell's movie, being as it is a film not about events, but about characters and states of mind. To be fair though, the film treats its subject with respect and has, to the extent one could expect, kept an open mind, and Kassell deals effectively with quite a few interesting social conflicts regarding her protagonist's nature.

Still, by the end, we've not really gotten to know Walter. He remains a bleak, somewhat plotted character with the required "diagnosis". There's a scene towards the end of the film involving Bacon and a little girl in a secluded area. In this scene, both the strength and the weakness of the film is summed up, as the doomed nature of our Walter is underlined. His happiness (or rather primal needs) cannot be fulfilled without the suffering (or "suffering" depending on society's sentencing of the victim) of a small more or less asexual girl. There's undoubted tragedy in Walter's existence, and for maybe the first time, this is something that is being focused on just as much as the (possible) tragic fate of the girl. Still, the scene also shows the limited resources behind this production, because despite Kassell's noble intent of making Walter come alive as an interesting person, both he and the girl he befriends have so many stereotypical elements attached to them. The dialogue sounds like something off a kinky role-play and in the end Walter is left almost as mysterious as he would seem before you even knew him.

Copyright 2.2.2006 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang