Monday, 31 March 2008

Latter Days (USA, 2003)

Director: C. Jay Cox.

Principal cast: Steve Sandvoss, Wes Ramsey, Reb. Johnson, Jacqueline Bisset.

Homosexuality and religion have always been a troubled tandem, to say the least. While in the past homophobia used to be an undisputed and integral part of the institutionalised religion or rather its officially preached dogma, today the issue seems to be splitting entire churches right in the middle. But then again - there are churches openly debating the issue and there are those trying to silence it to death. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, more commonly known as the Mormons, certainly doesn't belong to the former group. But can it stay in the latter category forever?

Elder Davis (Aaron to those few who know him personally) is sent from his native Idaho to Los Angeles to spread the Mormon faith together with three other guys. They move into a flat in a residential area from where they are to launch their soul-saving operation. Things become a little awkward when they realise that their closest neighbour is Christian (an interesting choice of name, I might add), an openly gay and flashy party queen who is in no way intimidated by his new residential entourage. He soon lays his eyes on the pretty boy Aaron and even makes a bet at work (surprise, surprise – he works in a trendy downtown restaurant owned by a former Hollywood actress) that before long he’ll get him into bed. Aaron, who is intrigued by this apparently completely uninhibited and oversexed apparition that is Christian and evidently not so uninterested himself, falls into a trap masterminded by the latter so that Christian almost succeeds in his endeavour. But only almost, because Aaron is quick enough to realise that he is about to become just another one of Christian’s uncountable conquests. And that is definitely not what he wants, especially because he is in fact still a virgin. In disappointment, he calls him “a walking, talking marshmellow Peep” and walks away. Under normal circumstances Christian would probably just shrug it off but he doesn’t seem to be able to get Aaron out of his head and becomes determined to prove that he is more than he appears to be on the outside by volunteering for an early morning home delivery service for a housebound AIDS patient. Eventually, his determination seems to pay off with regard to Aaron but as the two of them are about to have an intimate moment, Aaron’s missionary mates happen to walk in on them.

In most cases, being found out this way causes embarrassment and a great deal of initial panic, especially if you weren’t planning on leaving the closet as yet. However, if you happen to be a Mormon missionary, this turn of events has dire consequences. Aaron is immediately sent home and subsequently excommunicated by his own hard-faced and unforgiving father while his mother can’t even look him into the eyes. Homosexuality is one of the worst sins you can be accused of in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints and if you don’t seem to be set on “praying the gay away”, you actually may end up in a clinic where they give your penis an electric shock treatment while they force you to watch gay porn and put you in a bathtub filled with ice until you literally turn light blue. As outrageous as it is, this treatment is in fact still practised in certain clinics in the US to turn people, especially youngsters, straight. Alas, this gruesome fate also befalls our Aaron. And there is only one thing that helps him survive the rejection of his family and the torture in the clinic – the love that he and Christian share.

According to many gay people who come from a Mormon background, the portrayal of the Mormons and their ways in this film is convincing and realistic. As I lack firsthand experience myself, I can only shudder at the thought that there seem to be so many religions in this world which in the name of their dogmatic teachings are ready to maim people physically and mentally because they don’t seem to fit these very same dogmatic teachings. Somehow, the words “Jesus loves you” cannot but sound utterly and ultimately meaningless and devoid of any relevance in this context. Unfortunately, the brainwashing that these religions do still keeps many a tortured soul trapped in a limbo that is hell on earth. And I’m not so sure they will have a reward for their pain in an afterlife.

“Latter Days” is not a masterpiece of cinematography. In fact, it is at times fairly cheesy and badly acted, especially when it comes to the use of religious symbolisms throughout the film which have made my toes cringe. But it is a heartfelt and convincing attempt to liberate many of these trapped souls that are still out there trying to undo the harm done to them by the “loving and caring” religions. And as such it is priceless.

And here you can watch the film's trailer:

1 comment:

rasid said...

OK, I'm so joining some church these days :)

does anyone have the soundtrack?