“Pretext” The Reality Of A Victim
Capturing a reality that we can connect with more and understand better is something that Minhal Baig did in her film “Pretext”. Baig gave us a very well, directed film using different elements of fiction to show us the reality of sexual assault. She does this by introducing the theme of the film, style and tone to grab the audience, the connection we make with the character, and the imagery used to show what the character is going through. All this combined, leads us to the plot of this movie and the message she is trying to send along with it. Framing her reality of what a victim goes through and the trauma that comes from wanting justice to possibly not getting any at all. As quoted by Steven Spielberg, “This opportunity… allows all of us to reach out directly to open a much wider door”. I believe Minhal is trying to do this with her film “Pretext”, structuring the film in a way that allows us to step into the main characters shoes. Capturing every scene so that we may connect and understand what she is trying to tell us with this film.
This allows us to see the character in a way that can relate to any one of us, this allows us to understand what the character is going through. As soon as the film starts we are introduced to the main character and learn that she is conducting a pretext call, “What is a pretext call?”. A pretext call is something victims of assault must do to collect evidence against their attacker. They record a conversation and try to get a confession out of their rapist. Here is where we begin to understand the trauma that the victim endured. Watching the call take place and seeing the way Baig zoomed in on the character allowing us to see her facial expressions and body language so we can get an idea of what she must be feeling. Struggling to speak, her feelings are made clear, she is anxious and uncomfortable. This heart wrenching conversation goes on as we see her trying to find what to say to get him to admit to what he did to her. While the conversation seems to be going smoothly you begin to see a mix of emotions take over her as she takes the conversation further. As a result, of her trying to push a confession Malcolm begins to catch on to what is going on. This leads him to hang up right away, she lowers her head drained and we sense the defeat immediately. Was justice served? A sad reality for some assault victims is that justice cannot always be served. That is what Minhal wanted us to see in her film “Pretext”. She wants her audience to see that we can do everything right and still be left with no closure and a fear that may never go away.
The realization that the pretext call did not lead to the arrest of Malcolm comes to light thru a text that she receives when cooking. Her demeaner changes as she looks at this text knowing he is still out there. Minhal shows this character going through the ups and downs of what a real victim would go through. Although this video is short, I feel it captures everything so well as we begin to see what Minhal is trying to get us to understand. Not only allowing us to see the reality for a victim trying to move on but pain they endure while taking their first steps. An example would be when she is having dinner with her friend and is asked about that night at the bar reminding her she may never escape this part of her life. She simply says she does not want to talk about it and leaves it at that. Her facial expression showing the loud scream for help inside as she chooses to face this alone. Why does Minhal not let her confide in her friend?Again, Minhal is letting us into the minds of all victims, the embarrassment they feel for allowing this to happen and being judged by friends and family. This character left the bar to go with this man probably drunk and not fully aware of what is going on leading him to take advantage of her. Scared of how things may change in her social life she chooses to keep this to herself and not tell her friend what happened.
The big reason victims are afraid to speak out, goes back to the thought of being blamed or looked at with shame. They’re scared, they do not want to be judged for what happened or how it happened to them. The battles they force themselves to fight alone with no help from anyone else brings a gloomy tone. I believe Minhal created this film from her point of view so that we may understand assault victims and the pain they go through. We get a better understanding at how something like this affects them and how they’re lives may change. Pretext shows us that there could be victims out there that have not spoken out about what happened to them. The emotions you see throughout this film shows you that this film has more than one tone and she is allowing you a look into the mind of victims. The emotions combined with the imagery gives us and understanding of how she is framing her reality. In certain points in the film Baig shows you snips of flashbacks from that night but also what seem to be snips that allow us to see what the victim is feeling inside. The first ones you see are of her putting lipstick on and a fire or light burning candle wax. In the background you hear her laughing when she has this flash she is in the middle of the pretext call. We see how these flashes affect her and cause her to relive this trauma.
The next flash shows her standing in the street with a blank stare on her face and a dryer spinning. This makes you question is this a peek into her head and an example of how she feels. The thought of something triggering these a flashback or faint memory and living with fear that you may have to relive this and be reminded of what happened to you is frightening. That is when you begin to understand the overall message that Baig is trying to send to her audience. As stated in Through the Shifting Lens: Realistic Film Aesthetic, modern filmmakers have directly confronted many problems that we face with our personal and social relationships. This is something I believe Baig is trying to point out, the issue of sexual assault and the reality that there is not always a happy ending to these stories. Cases like these can be dropped due to a lack of evidence or no confession. In this film we see the character trying to live and go on with her life even though she is looking drained. She is folding her clothes and the laundry mat when suddenly you hear a familiar voice… Malcolm he is there and with another women. You see her whole mood change as she panics to grab all her things and runs out. We are left with a scene of her sitting in her car breaking once again out of fear. This wear we understand the plot Minhal wants us to see that victims are left with fear and no closure. Minhal wants them to know they are not alone she is making it aware that some victims are left with a door wide open that may never be closed.
What these victims are left with and how they are left from their experiences. Overall, I believe Minhal did an amazing job in this short film allowing us to connect with a victim emotionally. As quoted by Spielberg, “Story telling is the most important aspect of anything I’ve ever done. It’s how the story is told. That’s all I’ve focused on. ” She framed her reality, so we could understand that’s there is more women out there with the same story as her character. She focused on the main issue in her story and brought attention to it. They do not always get the closure that they need and sometimes we must find our own way to get a conversation started on a topic. The way she put the elements of fiction together and let them tell this story is something I find brilliant. We got to see the theme first, the style and one combine in many ways, the way we got to connect with the main character, the imagery that allowed us to see what’s the character was going through emotionally and finally the plot which is justice is not always served. You may not get the closure that you want but know you are not alone in this. This happens everywhere, and it is not something to be ashamed of. This film is something that will have you seeing everything from a different perspective and showing you the real outcomes for some victims.
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