Masochism is a topic that many films seem to recoil from touching upon, perhaps due to the inherent complexity of the subject. However, despite its alien nature (for most) there have been several characters who seem to at least entertain masochistic behaviors at certain points, which often create a new fascinating layer for their respective films. Here is a small sampling of these characters, whose masochistic attitudes terrified, entertained and moved us. This is Top Five: Film Masochists.
5. Roy Batty – Blade Runner (1982)
The character of Roy, who was brilliantly and soulfully brought to life by the clearly meta-human (at the time) Rutger Hauer, is really only a masochist in certain ways, and clearly entertains some sadistic proclivities, such as when he tortures Han Solo, I mean Deckard in the film’s finale. However, a brief flash of masochism does appear in that particular scene, especially when Deckard finally gets the opportunity to fight back, brutally striking Batty with a metal pipe and briefly staggering him. At that moment Batty becomes animated, gleefully screaming, “That’s the spirit!” in a manner which clearly and blood-chillingly suggests he enjoys Deckard’s futile attempts, even if it causes him pain.
4. The Joker – The Dark Knight (2008)
The Joker’s masochism is the key to his character and informs the film’s exploration of moral rigidity in the face of mindless chaos. Additionally, the interrogation scene stands as the sequence that the entire film series hinges upon, as Batman, in that scene, finally comes face to face with his antithesis, who subsequently kills his lady love - which is, as you might remember, hilariously then the catalyst for Bruce’s whole Howard Hughes/Robin Hood schtick at the beginning of The Dark Knight Rises. Of course, another reason why the Joker’s masochism is so memorable is simply due to the brilliance of Ledger in the part. From his guttural, bubbling, and clearly titillated articulation of, “Oh, look at you go!” after Batman flips him back onto the table, to his screaming peals of laughter with each punch from the Caped Crusader, the Joker was having so much fun in that sequence that it should have been illegal. Oh wait, it probably was illegal.
3. Woody Allen – Every Movie He Has Ever Made (1965-2013)
Although one certainly not itching for a physical fight, Woody Allen’s many characters seem to be masochistic based on their collective proclivity for self-sabotage. His nebbish, neurotic New Yorkers are often driven to behavior that do direct harm to their professional and personal ambitions, often with results that can’t be corrected or reversed, much to ol’ four-eyes’ dismay.
2. Lee Holloway – Secretary (2002)
The first entry on the list where the masochism of the character seems to be directly linked to sexuality, Lee Holloway (played with a mousey perfection by Jake Gyllenhaal’s sister) plays the submissive to James Spader‘s Edward. Secretary is a special film, not just because of its sadomasochism but because it depicts how a relationship that has this sexual dynamic can still be one based in mutual love and respect.
1. Lucia Atherton – The Night Porter (1974)
Probably the most disturbing entry on the list, and the polar opposite of a film like Secretary, is 1974′s The Night Porter. Chronicling the sadomasochistic relationship between Lucia (a holocaust survivor) and Max (a former S.S officer) Porter transcends past pure exploitation to ask some really tough questions about the allure of power and the development of sexuality.
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