Trash Humpers

Dir: Harmony Korine, 2009. Starring: Harmony Korine, Rachel Korine, Chris Gantry, Charles Ezell. Cult.
Trash Humpers

"It's kind of like an ode to vandalism. There can be a creative beauty in their mayhem and destruction. You could say these characters are poets or mystics of mayhem and murder, bubbling up to the surface."

--Harmony Korine, on Trash Humpers

After watching the film, a few friends and I settled down for a long and rewarding conversation about Korine’s work and this particular accomplishment. Upon researching the inspiration for its plot and characters, we discovered that it came from a particular moment from the director’s childhood. While gazing out of a window, he noticed a group of elderly people under a bridge who presumably lived there. The group was seen laughing and humping trash cans, and it is this image that gave birth to a large part of the film’s concept. Looking further into the plot, spoken word, and visual tools used in the film, I’ve discovered that it is much more than a note on such people. Like any of Korine’s film, all of which I firmly stand by, Trash Humpers is like a nightmare with a mission in which I can only be inspired to live a "healthy life" or else risk the deranged and animalistic lifestyle of these characters.

While it is true that what I took away from the film is most likely very different from others, it is obvious that Korine’s films shine a light on anarchy. At the least, they seem to find beauty under the veil of disgust that their subject matter inflicts. The film involves the activities of four individuals: a man filming, two additional men, and a woman. Each character has a disgruntled voice and heavy prosthetics to make them appear old and mutated, though through their movement it is clear that they aren’t. Speaking of their agility, it seems to nurture the idea that they are young at heart and happy with their lifestyle. There is a monologue in the film that directly touches on this aspect of their personalities. Together they walk and drive about the town and find trash cans to hump, hooting each other on like a group of skaters, marveling at one of their peers’ tricks. When not mock fornicating with trash, they break into homes—some condemned and others operative, causing all kinds of havoc. They seem to have an odd assortment of friends, some of whom are their equals and others that they torment, kill, and humiliate.

Throughout the movie, each character seems to have a strange fixation on infancy. One of the men carries a baby doll around, and the entire group can be seen cradling, mutilating or dragging around dolls. This, and the ending, which I won’t give away, gave me the general idea that innocence doesn’t exist. In a sense, it seems as though no living thing is spared from judgment. All of the group’s activities and conversations lean toward the idea that conforming to society’s will and producing more and more people to sacrifice to this force leads nowhere. At the same time, the characters are so physically terrifying and ugly in nature that one can’t help but see society as something with at least some promise. And haven’t you thought that when walking past the unfortunate in the street? Particularly in Los Angeles, one encounters a carnival of despair in terms of homeless people.

Many appear almost mutated due to malnutrition and disease. From the skin right down to their voices, they are very similar to these characters. Upon seeing them, you are reminded of some kind of natural survival instinct; you are aware that you're in a rat race to stay above water and be happy. At the very least, you see their lives as what the world would be like if we followed our impulses and had no sense of order. Some of the characters seem liberated, even vain from time to time, which is not too far off from individuals on the street. You may never know if the majority of them are contented, or chose that particular lifestyle as a form of protest. At the least, you are reminded of your inner feelings for a moment, whether they be compassion, indifference or disgust.

It is extremely hard to recommend this film to most people, though if you're a fan of the director, it’s just up your alley. Some of the dialogue and circumstances are actually quite funny, specifically if you allow yourself to be swept in by its lunacy. The documentary style, executed by what appears to be a camcorder, makes it easier to see the action as a very likely series of events. The spoken word and music is, as always, haunting and humorous at the same time. As an art film with a bold message and a conscience, I recommend the film simply on the basis of touching life in a way that most wouldn’t dare and could never achieve.

Posted by:
Edythe Smith
Dec 10, 2010 5:44pm
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