Saw Laura Greenfield's documentary Thin yesterday. (Know I keep writing about movies - never the intention but frankly, it is the force that much of my life revolves around.) It's harrowing, disturbing, and highly provocative. Greenfield focuses on some women undergoing treatment for eating disorders at the Renfrew Center in Florida.
They are beautiful women, shrunken. Not just their physiques with bones poking through their backs. Everything about them is less. Obsessed with control, they're way more girlish than women. They're shut down. Their lives are reduced to the smallest act - the act of denying food. The larger act is denying life. It's devastating to observe.
I've spent my life more overweight than not. In the moments I looked great, I certainly didn't know it. My frame at minimum is voluptuous. My older sister got the super model mold. So I've thought about wanting to be thin everyday of my life too. But not enough to deny life. Sure, I'm sure my size results from too big an appetite. But I refuse to limit my experience. I will not say No, No I don't want that. I will not deny myself life. I know one can use too much weight as a buffer too - a way of distancing, a way of taking oneself out of the game (as my father used to say.) There's got to be a happy medium. There's got to be some way for the majority of us to make peace.
Fascinating too to consider the documentary's effects on these subjects' lives. The filmmaker told me that several of the girls journaled that the crew's presence didn't affect their treatment. But I can't help but wonder how is that possible. At the core of anorexia and bulimia is secrecy, shame and hiding. How is that affected by ever present camera? They were in tiny spaces together. That means at least one, if not three or four people, were witnessing their intimate moments. I know what that's like. You try to ignore it because you agreed to. Because you believe there's real value in an honest representation. But it still changes the landscape. Was it a relief to finally be seen? Outside the constant hiding? The filmmaker said they were so entrenched in their disorders that they didn't have the energy to be anything other than authentic. In a couple of spots, you see some girls' purging. It's so clear they weren't acting for the camera. You see that their compulsion was so strong, that they couldn't hide it any more. It's just devastating. Hard to watch, but very worthwhile.
See Thin on HBO November 14, 2006 9:00 pm EST.