Landscape Suicide

Landscape Suicide

Two American murderers. Teenager Bernadette Protti in 1984, and Ed Gein in the 1950s. We get a prolonged interview with each, as played by naturalistic actors, between segments of observing America. Sometimes culturally with a teenage girl hanging out in her room, on the phone, listening to Memories, but primarily (as the title implies) we look at landscapes. Church, emptiness, and death pervade. Death of hunted deer, and of course the victims of the killers. Guilt and reflection are the two feelings that came through most in this film. Protti’s guilt over what her crime will mean to her parents, the filmmakers guilt over focusing on Protti more than the victim, and a collective cultural guilt around contributing to a society that engenders such violence. Well, not entirely, as we see how much of life goes on uncaring. It’s like Benning wants to transpose his feelings of guilt through his observance on the American landscape, but it looks back blankly. Through editing he can make ties in culture and land that could give us some semblance of understanding, but the world isn’t edited. Perspective is often fixed in place.

I’ve been reading a book on giallo films, La Dolce Morte (well worth checking out), that says Italy has no word for serial killers. It’s not common enough to deserve its own phrase, so they stick to “mostro”. Monster. Benning does capture the mundane absurdity in the American serial killer. Something common enough to have its own term, yet not push people into making changes culturally (or any other way really) to address these issues before exploding in violence. In the current state of gun violence and mass shootings, where hundreds die a year and nothing changes, this film certainly resonated. The passivity towards violence is destructive, yet shamefully commonplace.