Between realism and nightmare, dramatic and magical, “Gummo” is an essential cult movie that will never leave you indifferent
I have confusion around me in every direction from my brain.
I’ve tried and tried to make it in this fucking world…
But I think it was a mistake that I was ever born”
Punished in theaters by such limited distribution but never ignored by the press or festivals, 24 year old Harmony Korine premiered “Gummo” (1997), which despite having been received with certain degree of skepticism was soon elevated to the assignment of cult film. Previously Korine had already started to work in movies when he wrote the scrip of Larry Clark’s “Kids” (1995), therefore “Gummo” was his debut as a director, in which he showed quite a marked visual and structural style.
“Gummo” is a portrait of the society of the town of Xenia (Ohio) presented through two groups of young main characters: destructive and self-destructive Solomon (Jacob Reynolds) and Tummler (Nick Sutton), and Dot (Chlöe Sevigny) and her two sisters. Solomon and Tummler hunt cats to sell them to a distributor for chinese restaurants while the sisters live the boring day to day in the neighborhood. There’s a third notable presence or character that is presented to us as Bunny Boy, a boy who wears pink rabbit ears and who – like a ghost or phantom soul – takes the viewer around town showing other peculiar inhabitants of the devastated area.
The structure of the film is dim and it has almost no plot. As in a collage, random and intense scenes focused on the main characters take place, although small intrusions of other eccentric local characters are also alternated. From the technical point of view the movie is also a collage that mixes 35, 16, 8mm, video and polaroid, voiceover and live sound, etc… In this way the film forms a portrait both realistic and dreamlike (or nightmare-like) of the Poor White Trash of Xenia. Despite the hardness of the images – hunting cats, youth sniffing glue and other drugs, sexual abuse attempts… – Korine approaches the film from a conceptual and reflective perspective on the beauty of the sadness and misery in which his characters live. The tone of the movie moves between dramatic and magical, and slowy it leaves in the horrified viewer a sense of disbelief, sadness and abandonment.
For many “Gummo” may seem just a movier about freaks close to surrealism, but the truth is that it is a reality – perhaps a very local one – living in the heart of America. Whether it is or not, the narrative of the film manages to evoke a dreamlike and surreal feeling out of forceful realistic images and scenes, which makes “Gummo” and unique cinematic experience that has never left anyone indifferent.
By Nicolás Solís
Gummo – Harmony Korine, 1997
Entre el realismo y la pesadilla, lo dramático y lo mágico, “Gummo” es una imprescindible película de culto que nunca te dejará indiferente