I was writing a horror short story about a young boy lost in the woods that attempted to blur the line between reality and fiction (tentatively titled ‘The Woodsman’) when I came across the excellent 2004 film The Woodsman, which stars Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick. Bacon is the Woodsman, aka Walter, a man guilty of a heinous crime. As Roger Ebert writes, to name the crime would prompt presumptions and preconceptions of his character. For the film’s purposes, the nature of his habit will be left unsaid, as the film gradually lulls us into the truth of his identity and nature.
Walter is a man recuperating from his unspeakable past, taking a job in a lumber mill to make ends meet. Shunned from most of his family except a loyal brother-in-law and hated and condemned by society, he lives a hard life. Even his parole officer, played by Mos Def, doesn’t cut him any slack. He meets a wonderful woman named Vicki (Sedgwick) who takes a liking to him, and we are as blind and unknowing about his past as she is. When his past secrets become known, we are forced to reconsider how we see these people, and more importantly what happens after. The film certainly doesn’t sympathise with his character, nor does it condemn him. He is simply shown as he is, a human being with a horrible passion. It’s a hard watch but philosophically rewarding, as we endure the hardships that he is forced to endure, and recognise that, despite his monstrosity, he is still a human with needs and feelings and a life to live. There are plot twists abound, and Walter’s story is not the only surprise that awaits. Great performances all around, and it’s a compelling psychological journey. It’s a film from the view of a outsider that confronts social taboos and forces us into his role, giving us rare insights into a much maligned social role. Highly recommended.
My favourite films of 2014:
Cold in July
Grand Budapest Hotel
The LEGO Movie