The Shocking

by John Flaus

The Shocking (dir. Saidin Salkic, 2019, 27 mins, Australia)

(Transcribed from a recorded audio commentary delivered by John Flaus on November 28, 2019.)


There is no way that I (as someone who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and forgets films on occasion, films which I have even acted in myself) could have seen anything as absorbing, or as crushing, as Saidin Salkic’s The Shocking in the past, and then forgotten it. (Not when some things in my memory go back to my pre-school days, when I was 4 years of age.) As I sat and watched this film, at several points I felt that I needed (it’s a curious thing to say) a mentor, someone who could care for me, as I experienced it. I felt insecure, even threatened, by the film.


Habitually, those who go to the cinema to watch films, or those who stay at home and set up films on all this 21st century technology (that I don’t understand), no matter how emotionally absorbing and how attention grabbing the film may be, they are nevertheless secure in the sense that they know that it is a confection going on before them. Now, it can be an exquisite and arcane confection (confections do not have to be simple and popular), it could be an intricate confection, but it is nevertheless a confection, which means that the viewer knows he is safe and secure, in a personal sense.



That didn’t happen to me as I watched The Shocking. I knew that, watching it on the new technology, I could reach out a hand and press something here and press something there, and it would stop, turn off, and I’d be safe. I actually could do this, turn the film off, as I was not sharing the viewing of it with anyone else, there was no other viewer who would be disappointed in any way, if I was to turn it off. But watching this film created in me a condition where I could not turn it off, to be secure – I lost the power. What was this film doing then?


What was coming through was so fresh, new, and stimulating at the same time.


The film did not harm me, did not indicate that it would cause any kind of personal harm to me, but what was coming through was so fresh, new, and stimulating at the same time, that at any moment it might have become fearful, but it was so stimulating that I had to stay with it and watch it, I had to go with it all the way through. It was the very quality of the work itself that denied me the power to turn it off – it commanded me.



And yet what was it that I was looking at? A record of a particular kind of sensitive vulnerability?  Or have I misread it?  How shall I put it?  This is an example of irony, not the irony we encounter in philosophy and in literature and drama, this is an irony we encounter in cinema. An irony whereby a part of me was so involved, so touched by what I saw that I had to continue watching; yet at the same time, there at my hand was the power to turn it off, to save myself. These contradictory conditions were present at the same time. That’s irony.  It’s not dramatic irony, because it is not in the work itself, it is in the emotive apparatus of the individual viewer, of me. The irony is within me, not in the work. The work of course has caused it, but the irony is personal.



I have spent a lifetime watching motion pictures and what can I say? Saidin Salkic’s film The Shocking takes me into a world I haven’t been in before, and yet it is a world in which I live. How can it be both, the world that I live in and also a representation in picture and sound of a world created by an individual? A further irony.


The Shocking takes me into a world I haven’t been in before.


This is not a critic’s delivery. Yes I am aware of the semantic origin of the term “judge”. I cannot be a judge of this film. I can merely report that it absorbed, impressed and maybe I’ll use this word as well, entrapped me, in a way that some other films of the past have occasionally done, but here I was entrapped for its full length.



That’s still pretty useless as a critique, I admit that. This bloody picture has defeated me. I can’t have the usual, what am I going to say, confidence movie routine, not with The Shocking. Maybe if I watch it a few more times, maybe I’ll achieve security (smile). I got to look at it again!

John Flaus is an Australian broadcaster, actor, voice talent, anarchist, poet and raconteur. He was formerly a prominent film academic and theorist.

Published March 25, 2020. © John Flaus, March 2020