Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Frank Mosvold | Forsaken

an elegy for love

by Douglas Messerli

Frank Mosvold (screenwriter and director) Forsaken / 1994

Norwegian filmmaker Frank Mosvold was educated in the US at Babson College and Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, where he probably shot this 1994 film, Forsaken, as a student project. He states that it was his way of coming out to his parents.

     Later of his films such as Kysset som fikk snøen til å smelte (A Kiss in the  Snow) (1997)  Bølgene (Waves) (1998) were in Norwegian, while this early work’s minimal dialogue is in English. But in all three of these works from the 1990s his subject seems to be about friends who are somehow unable to openly define themselves as being gay and living in a homosexual relationship. In fact, sex does not play a role in any of these three films.

    Yet this early one, despite its fairly morose tone, is the most open about a gay relationship, in this case between two you men, Jonathan (Chad Baker) and David (Don Handfield), quite obviously sharing the same given names of the great biblical friends, Jonathan the son of Saul who became David’s best friend while still attempting to remain loyal to his father, a man fearful of the prophecy that David would replace him as the Israeli king. Ordered by Saul to kill David, Jonathan convinced him to spare David’s life, but was later punished as Saul hurled his spear at him. When David did come to rule, Jonathan was killed along with his brothers by soldiers loyal to David while the new King mourned his dear friend’s death.

     This film set on apparently a day of open house for the Roman Catholic institution where Jonathan was spent most of his life, shows him wandering the halls a bit like a haunted man, recalling when he first told his parents, much to their shock, that he intended to become a priest and a time when in confession when admitted the power of his sexual desires although, when asked, claiming he had not yet committed any sin.

      However, we see him as a handsome young man, as opposed to the elder who is having these sad memories (Jack Sydow) recalling moments with David on the beach, the two very much in love, lying on the sand to imagine their futures, David imaging that he might become a great baseball player, as Jonathan admits he has chosen to remain celibate, determined to become a priest.

     At another time when he is obviously a young novitiate, David visits him, pleading for sexual intercourse, which hints that they did indeed have sex at some point in the past. Jonathan painfully sends him away, refusing even to speak with him.

      With a name tag on his cassock Jonathan now wanders the religious campus obviously seeking out a past that he never had and love that he will never know. All the film seems to portray is his immense loneliness and sadness, and we can only wonder how these strong regrets have affected his religious life.

    Near the end of what appears to have been a long day, Jonathan sits on a bench near one of the campus buildings, obviously worn out by life and the emptiness that haunts him. Suddenly an elder  man, clearly David (David MacArthur), greets him. The two sit together saying very little, realizing there is not much that can be said.

      Jonathan says, almost pointlessly, that he wishes the two over the years had kept in better touch, and David agrees. But when Jonathan wonders whether he might see him again, David can only sigh, repeating his friend’s name almost in wonder that he has even asked such a question. It has been answered so many long years earlier when Jonathan first closed himself off to his friend’s love and later refused to even see him. The future has been swallowed up in by Jonathan’s commitment to God, his father, his Saul.

      It appears that Christ expressed the truth: “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Poor Jonathan has forsaken love for faith and now has only hope left to him.

Los Angeles, June 16, 2021

Reprinted from My Queer Cinema blog and World Cinema Review (June 2021).

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