Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Summary - Hedwig and the Angry Inch (film)

Summary - Hedwig and the Angry Inch (film)

Title: Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
First release: July 20, 2001.
Material designation: Film/DVD.
Director: John Cameron Mitchell.
Production details: Killer Films, United States.

Themes: Dual-lives, dreams verses reality.

Summary of plot:

"Adapted from the hit off-Broadway musical of the same name, Hedwig and the Angry Inch is the tale of an "internationally ignored" rock & roll singer who hails from Communist Berlin and who dreams of becoming an American sensation. Hedwig (John Cameron Mitchell), born a boy named Hansel, is raised by a single mother (Alberta Watson) who wishes to see her son do better than his poverty-stricken family. Some years later, Hansel is attracted to a good-looking American G.I., who promises a better life overseas for young Hansel, under one condition: that he undergo a sex-change operation to become a fully functional female whom he can then marry. The operation is seriously botched, leaving the now-renamed Hedwig with an "angry inch" only to be stranded in a dingy Kansas trailer park on the day the Berlin Wall comes tumbling down. Hedwig then supports herself through a series of ill-fated lounge gigs and side jobs, meeting up with 16-year-old Tommy Gnosis (Michael Pitt), a religious type who befriends her and later steals her songs and becomes the rock star Hedwig always dreamed of being. Undeterred, Hedwig continues to perform in the shadow of Tommy's sold-out stadium tour, attempting to make herself whole in spirit, if not physically." [1]

My response:

The most controversial aspect of the films pretense is that the titular character is "...slip of a girly boy..." Entrapped in a conformist realm where she can not be himself, the plot presents a theme of promise; stuck in East Germany, he experiences a tragic surgical accident for the sake of marriage and ergo the sake of escape. He, now "Hedwig" has fled to America. Thus, making the plot similar to the "American dream", however, having done this to flee the oppression of the cold war and the Berlin war, it is ultimately falls. As if to say that this entire journal for Hedwig (with her husband leaving her for a man) for redundant. Now in the land of the free, Hedwig trudges through the de facto indifferent America, performing in run down bars. In other words, the supposed dream was false, she now continues with her musical career as a rock'n'roll singer that only came into being due to revenge for previous (now successful) lover. Hedwig appears to believe that the profession is one of glamour when it is a simple facade. As the film progresses we witness the employment struggles of the band members and their manager sloggle along, in conjunction with her less-inspiring cultural milieu, Hedwig utilises song to escape boredom and enter her own reality. Doing this instead of questioning her daily quotidian disappointments.

Furthermore, the film posits the theme of polarity, done so via the metaphors of the Berlin Wall and Aristophanes' speech in Plato's Symposium. The myth details how human beings were once round, two-faced, four-armed, and four-legged beings, but angry gods split these early humans in two, leaving the separated people with a lifelong yearning for their other half. Hedwig is a gay man and it can be said that he used the facet of drag to cover his 'abnormal' nature, with the failed marriage/operation providing him with the opportunity to reinvent himself and play the role of a straight woman. Hedwig consistently questions who his other half could be that will unify him, but the ending seems to answer this. Hedwig - having reconciled with his earlier love Tommy - fianlly reaches New York-grade super stardom yet removes her wig and drag clothing. Cue a supposed dream sequence were everyone dons pure white, seemingly heavenly attire and Hedwig performs without a costume. By coming out of the drag (the dream) he has now accepted and come out to himself and the world as a gay man. His tattoo  once a cartoon representation of two halves, is now unified, much like himself.

The rather random film has shown to me how many forms a hyperreality can take. The media can very well spur its own fiction and make us turn it into a reality, but we can  equally create our own new false lives to dwell in. Our own realities. 


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