A few years back I took a film history course that changed my life forever. It required two sessions: one which was two times a week for an hour and a half, and a second one that was a 3-hour session for movie screenings. I remember that we had to write mini reviews about the films we watched on those screenings. I watched so many hard-to-find films, and (cult) classics that all I wanted to do was learn film history. One of the movies that I loved was Bonnie and Clyde (1967). I remember reading about it before but never got to watch it until that glorious Friday screening.
Bonnie and Clyde (1967) expanded my visual knowledge to another level. This romantic movie about a couple of fugitives introduced myself to a whole new array of vintage classics that weren’t monster movies (like the ones I used to watch). And those were crime films with an almost excessive level of violence that (was) seduced (by) censorship. Bonnie and Clyde (1967) was a pioneer in that aspect, and it also lead me to watch more films about delinquent couples, like Natural Born Killers (1994) and Thelma and Louise (1991). Bonnie and Clyde (1968) was also my first ultra-violence experience from the 60’s, which makes it highly relevant to my thesis theme.
However, this time I don’t want to talk about Bonnie and Clyde (1967) because I have not watched it again in a very long time. I want to talk about Thelma and Louise (1991), a film that I devoured this week for the very first time (and that I should have watched before, I know, shame on me). Although the general story is similar to Bonnie and Clyde (1967)—two people going on an adventure to relief themselves from their daily lives—the subtexts and contexts of Thelma and Louise (1991) makes it a fascinating and a powerful film about two women—a rare thing in the movie industry.
The movie introduces the two protagonists to the viewer: Louise is a waitress and Thelma is a housewife. From this point on, the viewer can see the differences between the personalities of both characters. Even though they appear to know each other from a long time and are, in fact, best friends, their personalities are 180 degrees apart from each other. Louise is organized, cunning, and uptight. Thelma is naïve and disorganized—traits that will have an effect in the development of the story.
The first impression of Thelma and Louise (1991) is that it’ll be showing a feminine story about the growth of the two protagonists. However, the tone of the film changes completely after the first twenty minutes when a man tries to rape Thelma, and Louise kills him. This scene is the starting point of them becoming delinquents and fugitives, running for their lives and from society.
The representation of this taboo in the movie is delicate but oh so meaningful because it is present in this world of fiction but, more importantly, in the viewers’ world. It is what made me uncomfortable because I knew that I would have thought the same way Louise did. I would have defended ourselves. I wouldn’t have gone to the police because they would blame us. I wouldn’t have trusted the system. Because I don’t; because “we just don’t live in that kind of world.” In the words of Marisa Crawford:
If men didn’t rape, Louise wouldn’t have shot the rapist. If the system didn’t blame rape victims, they wouldn’t have gone on the run. If men didn’t rape, they could have driven through Texas. If the system didn’t blame rape victims, Louise wouldn’t have been so afraid. If women weren’t taught they deserve to be treated like shit, they wouldn’t have had to become fugitives in order to feel free. If there was a place for liberated, powerful women who live on their own terms in this world, they wouldn’t have had to create their own. If there was a place for liberated, powerful women who live on their own terms in this world, they wouldn’t have had to plummet into the Grand Canyon in order to feel free.
From this point of view, Thelma and Louise (1991) is a sad-but-true representation of how women are treated in our society/system. However, the cinematographic elements work together with such harmony that the experience is a smooth and subtle one—with a hint of comedy and classic gun violence (without going overboard). This film is, definitely, the best one I have seen in this month of leisure and a most-watch for anyone that would like a good visual-ride with two female protagonists. I confess that I got teary-eyes at the end of the film because I see so much of myself in the character of Louise that it was hard for me not to attach myself to her.
To lighten the mood, I’ll leave you with a song inspired by the film—that also worked as a reminder to myself: “Hey, this movie exists! Watch it!”