I went to this see this film last month and emerged from the cinema stunned by the graphic scenes of Oedipal triumph fuelled by the death instinct… or at least that’s a psychoanalytic interpretation of the driving narrative. For a more conventional summary of the plot try the following:
‘Based on Natalie Robins' non-fiction book, Savage Grace tells the tragic story of Barbara Baekeland, a middle-class woman who married into the Bakelite plastics fortune, but allowed her insecurities to poison her familial relationships and lead to murder.’
The fact that this film is based upon a true story makes it even more shocking. People were getting up and leaving the cinema during explicit scenes that smash every social taboo upholding the veeneer of civility, that we accept as ‘reality’, in contemporary western society. The title of the film depicts the problem the characters face, which is how to deal with the unconscious savagery that necessitates an etiquette of polite aggression to regulate societies sustained by greed and glamour. We observe how the materially ambitious use the trappings of glamour as a fragile container for narcissistic and paranoid modes of object relating. Such relationships are based upon trade rather than love. Everything is a business deal, a power move. Yet we are treated to visual scenes of sumptious beauty and elegance that permit complex power trade offs to pass as the ultimate in sophistication. However, when this fragile container of glamour fails, as it must, the result is devastation. This is the kind of film I expect to read a lot of essays about in the future! Go see if you have a strong stomach and enjoy thought provoking explorations of the social regulation of desire.