Monday, November 5, 2007

Movie of the Day: Whole (2003)

Director: Melody Gilbert
Genre: Documentary
"Whole" takes you into the world of people obsessed with becoming an amputee
Plot Outline: Explores individuals who feel the need to become amputees by interviewing these individuals and psychiatrists, loved ones, etc.
User Comments: Gutwrenching and disturbing, but ultimately touching and thought-provoking

IMDB link.

It's long I've been wanting to see this documentary, and now that I've seen it, I can gladly say it exceeded my high expectations. Whole truly is a documentary that's disturbing, bizarre, but also touching, profound and even at times funny.

You could see Whole as an antidote to all the boring plastic surgery shows every other TV program seems to be these days. The people interviewed in this film -- just like all who drop by at a plastic surgeon -- have an ideal image of themselves, and want to realize it. But these folks aren't complaining about nose that's too big or breasts that are too small, they have been miserable for their entire life just because they feel they have one limb too much. Call that superficial?

Tragic thing about this is that they cannot get professional help for this. Pathological desire to amputate oneself isn't widely accepted as a disease so far, and healthy-limb removal is out of the question in the medical world. From the documentary Whole we learn that not only this leads to excessive depression among wannabes, but ultimately to the act of self-mutilation (although wannabes themselves don't see this as "mutilation," but more like "relief"). In the movie, we meet a guy who shot off his leg using a shotgun. We hear how one seeked professional amputation from Mexico but died from complications following surgery. This begs for the question: should these completely sane people be able to remove their limbs by professional doctors if they want? Or are they just plain sick?

Whole doesn't provide concrete answers, and maybe that's why it is so effective. It doesn't judge wannabes and certainly doesn't approach them sentimentally. Melody Gilbert has wonderfully turned a subject matter that's normally fodder for sensationalist journalism into a thought-provoking, profound journey to the world of medical avant-garde. Highly recommended.