Warning: Spoiler Alert. This is a critical essay not a review, therefore many crucial plot points are revealed for the purpose of discussion and analysis.
I can’t vouch for movie audiences around the world, but we Americans have earned the reputation for liking films which tell us how we should think and feel about a topic. Otherwise we seem to get easily confused. Take, for example, when Bryan Forbes’ feminist horror film The Stepford Wives (1975) was thought by many to be sexist chiefly because the women don’t “win” in the end, and the chauvinistic behavior of the men was depicted in a blackly comic, satiric manner. Similarly, Samuel Fuller’s powerful anti-racism film, White Dog (1982) was practically yanked from theaters because many mistook this dramatic parable about hatred being taught (it’s about a dog trained by white supremacists to attack black people), for actually being racist itself.
I’m no fan of morally dubious movies that glorify selfish instincts or try to normalize evil (we have reality TV and our current Presidential election to do that); but I do admire films that aren’t afraid of ambiguity, are open to interpretation, and resist the impulse to explain the complex.
|Sandy Dennis as Jill Banford|
|Anne Heywood as Ellen Marsh|
|Keir Dullea as Paul Renfield|
|Ellen "What is there here for me, Jill?"|
Jill: "Yourself. Something I could never take from you."
|"And when he holds me, I feel I'm seeping into his flesh...and there's no more me."|
|Shot in a manner to best emphasize his vulpine features,|
Dullea gives an appropriately sly performance
THE STUFF OF FANTASY
|Paul wields his phallic ax|
If it is Paul's wish to have Ellen lose herself within him, then it's imperative that he
remove the one person who reminds Ellen she has a self worth preserving
The Fox is not the triumphant feminist/LGBT love story I thought it would be. But what it is I've seen played out countless times in my life.
You see it in the "mansplaining" phenomenon (which is nothing new). You see it in the way men like Trump can only relate to women by trying to exert power over them; either through sexual objectification or, when feeling threatened, trying to belittle or destroy them in some way.
I see it in gyms I've worked in, where men feel the need to exert a subtle superiority over women by being "helpful" and offering unsolicited workout tips.
You see it in the paradox of male fantasy fetishizing of girl-on-girl sex existing side by side with a real-world hatred and fear of lesbians and bisexuals.
|The Fox explores how merely the idea of women existing without need for a man|
can ignite a primal fear in the male
|Lost or Found?|
When Ellen appears in her pink feminine finery, making like a contented, domesticated female,
has she reclaimed a suppressed part of her nature or surrendered herself to what Paul wants her to be?
These things are neither admirable nor desirable, and not even indicative of most people's relationships; but here, some 90 years after D.H. Lawrence put pen to paper, the contradictory and cruel power plays between men and women seem to have changed little.
For me, The Fox is an allegory about a particular kind of male/female dynamic, with the suggestion that what is primitive is not necessarily natural.