The new film in which Elle Fanning stars is meant to raise awareness of the mental and physical toll eating disorders take on teens, but some are saying its gruesomeness is a bit much.
Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto’s new short film titled “Likeness” explores the anguish of a young person suffering from an eating disorder. The film stars Elle Fanning and shows the world through the distorted perception of a young girl suffering from bulimia.
The film begins with the camera traveling through the rooms of a house party, where scantily clad men and women fill every corner. The party-goers are disturbingly sad and isolated. Prieto cast models for the scene, which gives it the look of a fashion spread that has gone horribly wrong. The men and women look glamorous at first, but an air of illness and detachment puts the viewer on edge.
When we realize that we are observing the party through the eyes of Elle Fanning’s character, it becomes obvious that what we are seeing may not be reality. The most difficult part of the film to watch comes when Fanning steps into a bathroom and looks at her reflection. The girl sees her face reflected back — distorted and ugly. She begins pulling at her skin in disgust, ripping it violently to shreds.
Feelings Of Self-Loathing
The feelings of worthlessness and self hatred experienced by those with eating disorders are powerfully conveyed in this disturbing scene. Some say the realism of the film could hurt persons who are currently battling an eating disorder. The portrayal of thin models in the party scene could even encourage and glamorize the practice in the eyes of some viewers. The emotional impact of the film could also be too much for those who haven’t fully recovered. But for other individuals trying to understand what living with the disorder is like, the film could be a powerful tool.
The Director’s Journey
Prieto says the film helped his own family deal with their own struggles with eating disorders. He called on his 19 year old daughter Ximena for advice on how to portray a young woman’s struggle with the disorder most accurately. Ximena struggled with anorexia herself and plays a friend of Fanning’s character in the film.
The Prietos are hoping that the film will educate people about eating disorders and expose the pain behind them. Many still believe that the disorder is motivated by vanity, and that the behavior can be stopped at any time. The truth however, is that eating disorders carry the highest death rate of any other psychiatric illness.
A Common Theme Developing
Eating disorders are becoming more common in the U.S. with more than 20 million women and 10 million men currently experiencing symptoms. In order for these people to be able to get help and recover more easily, attitudes must change. Educating the public about the dangers of eating disorders and building awareness of their symptoms are the first steps in getting others to understand the true nature of these diseases.
It is important to remember that if you or somebody you know is struggling with issues relating to eating disorders there is help available. Reach out and ask for assistance if you are in need, there are always people available who are willing to help.
Justin Levin is a licensed Family and Marriage Therapist from Milwaukee, WI. As a Clinical Services Manager at Adolescent Growth Management he specializes in the formation and implementation of forward thinking programs that help adolescents deal with trauma and issues of addiction.