The Other Side of the Underneath

The Other Side of the Underneath ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

The following essay is a chronological recording of notes during my viewing of Jane Arden's The Other Side of the Underneath. I was supposed to view the film on Tuesday, but there were technical issues with our classroom's computer.

The Seventh Week of Women in British Cinema.

Patriarchy is Hell.
The Other Side of the Underneath.
Directed by Jane Arden.
By Blake Patterson.

  Jane Arden's The Other Side of the Underneath opens with a quotation concerning confusion and frustration over identity. The opening scene’s natural setting and the children-sized bed emanate a sense of innocence, yet the woman has no control over it. The first discussion between an official and a patient was about the patient’s alleged mental illness. Arden creates tension through frustrating sounds (like the clown or the endless questions in the therapy session) to evoke the pains women endure in an authoritarian, patriarchal society. When a woman in a hat throws shards at the naked woman, the audience hears the sound of a woman’s screams in a violent circumstance. By including this audio, Arden incorporates an implication of domestic violence in the women’s past.
  Blood falls into a shard of glass as the naked woman’s face is in the reflection. This disturbing image conveys the immediate aftermath of the trauma. Arden follows it with the naked woman in front of a cross as she says, “You dirty girl," and repeats the word “dirty.” The inclusion of the cross emits how the patriarchy relies on religion to judge and limit women to submissive roles. After the repetition of “dirty,” the naked woman expresses, “Daddy’s girl” and “little prize.” These phrases derive from what the patriarchy forces women to do for sexual satisfaction.
  When the naked woman places her hands on her face and leans down, Arden includes distorted sounds reminiscent of a moan. Arden follows this circumstance with an exchange between the naked woman and a nun. The nun pulls the naked woman’s hair off as a sign of the patriarchy’s abuse of the woman. While struggling to eat bread and drink liquid from the nun, the development displays the continuous impact of the patriarchy’s maltreatment of women. Arden juxtaposes a wedding and funeral with a married couple in front of pallbearers carrying a coffin to signify how the woman loses her rights and role to the patriarchy.
  They place the bride in a coffin underground, and a young girl pulls apart yellow petals from flowers and throws them at her. The yellow petals and the bride in her grave suggest the loss of innocence and independence. Arden projects footage of a protest turning into a riot on the bride as she moves around anxiously. The utilization of this footage indicates how women fight for their rights against the patriarchy. Arden gradually zooms in on a shot of a woman sitting backward in a chair, and the woman looks up as water drops fall on her face.
  The woman talks about the love and pain within themselves. They are full of love, yet the patriarchy takes advantage of their hearts. Arden conveys how women seek happiness in a society where men do not care about their feelings. In the sequences involving nature, Arden creates a visual paradox of the grassland’s beauty with the toxicity of fire and smoke. The grassland and animals epitomize the purity of the women’s hearts and strength, while the fire and smoke represent the overwhelming threat of patriarchal power.
  Cutting away from nature, Arden develops a scene on stage with a woman pretending to be a child as she takes off the disguise to present herself as a stripper for the male audience. Arden develops this transformation to acknowledge how men expect women to learn to be submissive from an early age. The toys and childlike objects represent the depth of the women’s hearts in a desolate world. Due to the patriarchy’s control of them, a woman goes after another woman with an axe at a concert. The patriarchy’s maltreatment drives the woman toward violence, yet Arden includes the concert to emit how the British media cares more about music than women’s health and safety.
  After the concert, Arden creates an elegant scene of people enjoying themselves outside while an authority figure talks to a person about a patient’s schizophrenia. Arden establishes this sequence to demonstrate how people in charge will present their society as idyllic to avoid any concerns about sociopolitical issues. The home video footage of geese and babies recalls a time of bliss before the eventual decay. During the extended party sequence, it is the men who dance instead of the women. The cracking of eggs symbolizes the patriarchy’s maltreatment of women by taking away their rights.
  Arden presents a fight between two young men, and the following shot conveys a group of geese running away. This is another example of decay overwhelming innocence. The fight descends into more quarrels, and Arden creates images of a man turning a pig’s body on a pole to cook it above a fire. A few minutes before, there was a shot of men pulling feathers off of a chicken. There are images of male children being playful and female children having sad faces. Arden establishes a brief dynamic between a young autistic man wanting to get on a horse, even though a young woman is on it.
  An extended sex scene transitions to a moment of a woman almost drowning in a bathtub full of dirty water. After the bathtub sequence, Arden conveys five women in white makeup carrying a woman on a cross. A group of women (including the young girl) makes noise to bring the dead woman's spirit back to continue the fight against the patriarchy. As a nightmarish look at schizophrenia, the searing images (like playing with glass shards) and unsettling sound design are more surreal than Lodge Kerrigan’s realistic Clean, Shaven——another art film about the subject. However, Arden incorporates schizophrenia into the narrative to aesthetically experiment with her project and psychologically explore the patriarchy’s role against women. The ethos and pathos of The Other Side of the Underneath derive from Arden's rage against a patriarchal world. Given recent events concerning women's rights, people like Arden are fair in their judgments.

Side note:
The best film of the class thus far. I doubt another movie will top it.

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