Movie: The silent forest (無聲)

The silent forest (2020) is a Taiwanese movie, inspired by real-life events. I had already seen the trailer beforehand, so I knew what to expect and I made sure I didn't have anything important planned afterwards or the next day. Although there were many moments, where people don't talk and use sign language instead, there was never a dull moment and the story was told with a lot of attention to detail. I was impressed by how much depth the movie characters had. Their thoughts and actions were explained well and it was confronting to see the creepy scenes from the outside, whereas I am used to experiencing most of them from the victim's point of view. 

The scene where the main male lead chases after an elderly thief that stole his wallet and hits him to get it back, but gets arrested for assaulting a harmless grandfather, who was just trying to bring a wallet that he picked up from the floor to lost and found, pretty much sums up my life as a highly functioning person with nystagmus. I consider myself a normal person with eyes that happen to like to dance left and right, but living as a normal person is not easy when everybody around you treat you as a crazy person, a person high on drugs, a person with limited understanding, a person that you take advantage of, a person that is a monster and not human, inferior, and an easy target for bullies and perverts. Whenever someone hurts me (and it happened a lot), people keep telling me that I misunderstood their intentions. Most people are so stupid that they can only think in stereotypes, such as the elderly are weak and frail and need protection (while anybody can do bad things, no matter how they look like), boys will be boys (it is just a joke and the victim isn't saying anything), or that popular teacher is so warm and kind to everyone (just not to the victim). I look different and I am constantly fidgety, as I always get harrassed no matter where I am, and extremely angry for the thousands of times I got hurt by someone and people just refused to save me and walked away doing nothing, so I am always accused of lying, breaking things, and doing all kinds of other bad things (basically, anything bad was my fault). I cannot count the times I was forced to apologize, when it was not my fault, but it was the only way to get things over with. I never got the benefit of the doubt. There was nothing I could do about my appearance, as there was no way for me to heal, when I get damaged again the next day, and I was born with these eyes. I focused on things that I did have somewhat control over (my good grades, what I ate, when I slept, and finding new places to hide and ways to keep bad people away from me).

The fact that sexual abuse happened in that school didn't really shock me, as I know that that is real. From the day I was born, everybody freely showed their bad side to me, as I had no voice (nobody believed me or stood on my side), and it was easy to discredit everything I said based on my looks. I knew it happened in prison cells at the police station; at the playground, in the toilets, in the gym, in the locker room, in the media room, behind the thick wooden fire doors at school; at the staircases of my apartment building; at the local swimming pool; at friend's houses; at the local playground; at the church; at the doctor's office; at the dentist; and inside the psychiatric department. Even though I longed to get away from my house, to go to different places and to go explore the world, for a long time, I was too scared to go anywhere alone (someone told me that one witness is the same as no witness, you need to be at least with two people). I was in lockdown, before there was such a thing like a lockdown. It wasn't until I trained myself to be strong enough to take down an adult man, did I feel safe enough to wander off by myself. I was actually more shocked by the people around me, who were extremely in denial, and the hatred they showed towards the victims. I still wonder if they get so angry at the victim, because they showed them the inconvenient truth, the fact that everything they thought was real was fake instead, or that they vent out the anger that they feel about unable to protect someone they care about (and make them someone they don't care about?), or that they are reminded of something that they never wanted to remember, or is it that they envy the courage that the victim has shown by coming forward, while they couldn't do anything themselves? I used to be so angry about that, but I realised that I also did something similar. A lot of my memories are so horrible that I tell myself that it didn't happen, that it was just a bad dream. I erased them, just so that I could keep surviving. The difference is that me telling myself that it is a lie, made me suffer in silence and never be able to fully heal, just so everybody, including myself, could sleep in peace. Although I understand that it is scary and difficult, I hope people can just believe and protect the victim first and question your beliefs and judgement about people later. 

This is one of the few instances that I like the main female lead character. I understood how hopeless you can feel, that you rather sacrifice yourself over others, and how you can think (or made to think by your surroundings) that being quiet about it, by putting up with it, is the only solution. It is horrible that she was pushed to the point to take drastic matters, just so that she can at least avoid an unwanted pregnancy. It is funny how many similarities I have with her, as when I was little, I seriously considered a sex change just to stop perverts from coming after me (That was before I knew that even boys weren't safe). I also didn't have to go to an underground doctor. A doctor was willing to remove all my egg cells (at the time, I was so scared that I thought I would get pregnant from everything and they refused to remove the uterus of a little girl, so removing the egg cells was the only alternative), but since I might still reconsider, he said he will put a couple of egg cells right outside to make getting pregnant easier, as he saw a lot of couples struggle in his clinic (??!). I even ordered a big metal chastity belt, which I eventually got sawed out by firefighters, as I needed to hide the key well from perverts, but still bring along for bathroom breaks. Trust me, I know what hopelessness feels like. After experiencing all that in the movie, I am impressed how she can still see the good in people and smile so beautifully in the bus, as if nothing has happened. This is in stark contrast with the little boy in the bus, who became an abuser. 

The scene, in which the male main lead is forced to hurt the little boy, reminded myself how much being bullied and tortured during my childhood, have become a part of me. In that split second, I calculated the distance between the bullies, how much time I have and how big my chances are of holding the leader of the bullies hostage. As a kid, I developed this technique that involves grabbing the bully from behind and using the sleeve of the shirt that I am wearing (made of inelastic fabric) to wrap around the neck from behind. I used my other free hand to tighten the loop. This has rescued me from a lot of scary situations, but it highly depended on the element of surprise and the success rate drops after doing it the first time in front of someone. Also, based on my experiences: 1) bad people don't keep promises, so don't even bother, 2) the followers are mostly loyal due to fear for the leader and blindly follow his/her lead (Sun Tzu's The art of war: to capture the enemies, capture the leader first), 3) Never do anything that can be used against you or to blackmail you to do worse things, 4) All the before mentioned advice is useless if you are unprepared, naive, inexperienced, and are incapable of recognizing the situation as such (as in: is this a bad person?, who is the leader?, when to act and how to do it?, and how can this be used against me in the future? (It is scientifically proven that a child's brain is not developed enough to see and understand the consequences of their actions, especially farther in the future)), and 5) Don't be so harsh to yourself when you fail, there will always be the next opportunity (Often, the bullying doesn't stop for no reason). 

The scene in which the leader of the bullies got in the hospital was also filmed really well. It showed the complexity of the situation. The bully isn't just a bad person doing bad things for no reason. The conflicting feelings that sexual abuse victims may deal with are realistically portrayed. The abuse made them hate the body that they are in, so much that they want to destroy it, or they need to hurt it so badly just to feel something, as it has turned numb (feeling a disconnection between body and mind) from the abuse. But the constant abuse also binds people (The brain decides for you that the best way to survive this is to make the person, who hurts you, love and care for you, and the best way is to love him/her first? Or my other theory: the constant abuse has reached the limit of what your body, heart, and brain can handle, and only by having feelings of love and creating endorphins, a natural pain killer, in your brain can you soften the pain) and the body might also feel pleasure just from the fact of being touched. 

Lastly, I hope that we can create a cultural change in which schools, or any other institution, care less about their image and more about every individual person. I don't want to see any more victims getting sacrificed for the sake of the school, the sport, a guy's promising future and career, or whatever excuse they made up to keep things covered up. I want to see openness and a public rapport card for how well they solved problems and dismantled a toxic environment. 

Popular Posts