Palindromes

By Gil Leung

In his fourth feature Solondz returns to his familiar style of politically incorrect and irreverent black humour. The story's set around the young adolescent ‘Aviva’, whose life’s ambition is to have “lots and lots of babies” as soon as possible. The pursuit of this desire rapidly leads her through sodomy, born again Christian Britney-esque dance ensembles, murder and abortion. Solondz  has encouraged us to question how one empathises with Aviva’s plight by using a variety of actresses to play her. These range across a wide spectrum of America from a plump Jewish teenager, a skinny ginger girl, an obese black woman to a thirty-year-old white woman.

Palindromes is essentially a love story about the conditions created by desire to obtain a form of unconditional love. For Aviva, though merely a child herself, it seems that this love can only be attained by having her own child, and therefore possessing a love intrinsically hers. However having succeeded in becoming pregnant she is forced by her mother to have an abortion, which leads her to run away. Upon her journey Aviva encounters many people striving for love – some innocently, others deceptively – however what unites all Solondz’s characters is his examination of how far we will go to achieve some form of unconditional love and how perhaps intention and methods can intermingle to the point where deciding what is ‘right’ and for whom is impossible. Is the character of Joe, who Aviva uses to realise her escape, a paedophile, if the child, Aviva, is consenting? is a murder righteous if it  is the death of a ‘murderer’ of the innocent unborn. Is a mother's love unconditional if she has conditions upon her children? As shown by Aviva's mother when she forces her child to have an abortion against her will despite or unaware of the consequences that decision will have on her daughter's life.

The theme of love is also a metaphor for how eager we all are to have faith/belief systems, or how we strive for our own verification of self through the love of another. Aviva is taken in by Mama Sunshine and her adopted family of disowned children. The character of Mama Sunshine has love that will extend to all those forsaken and cruelly abandoned by parents unable to love them; children with difficulties, the wrong children. Though Mama Sunshine's love is unconditional in that it crosses gender, race and disabilities it is conditional in that the children must love Jesus.
Solondz has cleverly managed to explore how our human desires can create conditions upon love where we are prepared to sacrifice others or perhaps even ourselves  to obtain them. Mama Sunshine's love of children and righteous belief in the sacrosanct nature of human life will extend to murdering the killers of others. Aviva's desire to have someone to love, will drive her to being sodomised, brainwashed and labelled a child whore. Joe in the desire for atonement, love, and forgiveness for his (alluded to) previous sinful life is lead to him finding God and committing murder. Where does the line lie between love and hate, or indeed as solondz so often explores, between tragedy and comedy?

Palindromes is a very well observed, mature story. Solondz has managed to represent as many different strands of human fallibility in love as in his previous film Happiness through only one narrative story line. The self reflexive nature of  Solondz’s Storytelling is present but with greater awareness and subtlety. One is aware of Palindromes’ obvious narrative devices; but, instead of using these to comment on representation’s inherent falsity as in Storytelling, he uses films divisiveness to allow him greater artistic freedom to emphasis his themes. Though his use of different actresses to play Aviva is confusing at first, it  does serve quite well to tell a universal story that at least makes an effort to transcend cultural and racial stereotypes within film. In producing a work of more maturity Solondz has lost none of his black humour. By tackling so many issues and themes he could be in danger of  being heavy handed or pretentious, but the diplomacy of his darkest humour shines through.
Contributors retain the copyright to their own contributions. Everything else is copyright © Spannered 2015.
Please do not copy whole articles: instead, copy a bit and link to the rest. Thanks!