Again!? So soon!?
*sighs* That’s right, it is time for yet another reaction paper on a film that was shown for the class. This time, the movie of choice is Silverlake Life: The View from Here (1993). Unlike many of the other movies that we have seen so far,Silverlake Life is a cute like documentary. I don’t think that I have much to say that I haven’t said below, so I will leave you to it.
Silverlake Life: The View From Here (1993) is a powerful reminder of the personal devastation that often awaits those with a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS. From its outset, the film makes it clear that the ending will not be one of cheery songs and happily ever afters. Rather, the film announces its intentions to document the lives of partners Tom and Mark as they experience their spirals of AIDS-related decline. In this, the documentary does not shy away from even the hardest of facts; Instead, choosing to highlight the physical tole AIDS is taking on each of their bodies and even allowing the viewer the gruesome opportunity to see the ultimate result, at least in Tom’s case.
Throughout this entire process, the couple does their best to not only show the physical ravages of the disease, but also its emotional costs. Frequently, the viewer is confronted with the emotional dilemmas that Tom and Mark face as they try to understand, and prepare for, their eventual deaths. As an example of this, Mark and Tom talk about how family visits take on a new meaning as their health declines. In this, they talk about how, while they want family to be together in the hard times they are facing, they also understand that family visits are an undeniable signal of their quickly approaching end. However, this is not the only example, as even the most mundane of daily tasks has the potential to result in such emotional turmoil. When faced with a long day out at the shops, Tom gets quite angry with Mark as he continues to add “just one more thing” to the list of jobs. Although this anger is mostly at his own growing physical incompacity, to some extent, Tom still misdirects it at his partner, Mark.
Thankfully, however, this does nothing to harm the relationship or the dedication that either has to the other. Instead, it was just a passing feeling arising for the ever increasing limitations that AIDS places on the body. This physical and emotional realism, as well as the disease/life balance that is struck throughout the film, make Silverlake Life one of its kind. Even though the movie highlights some of the most gruesome moments of living with (and dying from) AIDS, the film still comes across as more of a tragic romance than a romantic tragedy. That is to say, that, despite the focus on the disease that is slowly taking both of their lives, the film also (inherently) centres the relationship between the two of them, and the love and dedication that makes this possible. In doing so, Tom and Mark, once again, stand as proof-positive that gay men are capable and willing to commit to such long-term, devotional relationships, a fact that (despite frequent confirmation) still comes into question today.
Further, because the film makes it a point to address the dedication and (assumed) monogamy of Mark and Tom, the film also helps to break down preconceptions about the strength of the relationship between HIV/AIDS and promiscuity. While frequent casual sex does put one at increased risk for contracting the disease, promiscuity is not an essential part of this process. It is quite possible to contract HIV from a single session of unsafe sexual activity or from a variety of other sources; a fact that is commonly ignored in a rush to cast blame for the illness onto the actions of others. So, in spelling this out yet again, Mark and Tom remove some the loaded assumptions about, and relieve some of the stresses on, all the people who unfortunately follow in their footsteps.
Overall, Silverlake Life: The View From Here provides the viewer with an excellent, yet disturbing, introduction to the ravages of AIDS on the gay community. While the movie does little to address the far reaching nature of the epidemic in this era, the film easily and appropriately personalizes this deadly, painful, and incapacitating disease; something not to be taken lightly. However, in leaving this film, it is still possible for one to feel as though AIDS is a fate for the unlucky or unwise and not the population destroying menace that it actually was. Because of this, I feel that Silverlake Life should commonly and consistently be paired with the other side of this coin, so that those watching it can more fully comprehend, not only the physical and emotional tole of the disease, but the population and community scale tole as well.