That's not only a theme of this movie, it's part of the lyrics that self-proclaimed (and with good reason)"super-masochist" Bob Flanagan cheerfully sings at a lecture/performance-he did a pretty witty re-working of the "Supercalafraga..."etc song from Mary Poppins. Did I mention he's wearing a little costume including a cape when he performs it?
Yep, Bob Flanagan had a pretty good sense of humor. That was one of the pleasant surprises of this movie. When I first heard about this movie, all I heard about was the hammer scene. I also had skimmed the RE-search book, and looking at some of the really extreme mutilations to areas of his body I would rather not name, I actually figured he was slightly disturbed. I'm pretty liberal and am of the opinion that what 2 consenting adults do, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else against their will, is their own business. I thought, because of his CF combined with this serious torture that he either was suicidal or hated himself. I also wondered about his relationship with his dominant/lover/partner of 15 years, Sheree Rose, hoping that it was loving and she wasn't just using him.
I was glad that this movie proved my pre-conceived notions wrong. This is a very intelligent, sane, witty, talented, likeable, and above all, VERY brave guy who happened to enjoy being beaten and tortured sexually. The movie explains-without preaching- that he actually gained strength from his activities. (according to statistics, most CF sufferers die in their 20's. He lived till his early 40's (actually a record)and says his sex life kept him going. He figured for one thing, he had nothing to lose. For another thing, CF is a very painful disease, and he chose to use S&M as a way to take control of his pain and disease. If you find this a hard idea to understand, or are curious, I highly recommend this movie. This has been said before, but I don't recommend it if you're squeamish. I'm jaded, but I had to look away a few times. Interestingly enough, what I found harder to watch than the notorious Hammer of Love was seeing BF racked with pain, coughing his lungs out, and (I don't think I'm spoiling anything here as the movie opens with Bob good-naturedly writing his own obituary) finally losing his battle with CF.
I also didn't think this movie would be so touching. Before the end, I realized he had a very loving relationship with Sheree. Not only are they sexually a perfect match, she is his best friend, soulmate, and care-giver, which is no mean feat. Face it, if you don't love someone, you're not going to be sticking around and helping them expel mucus from their lungs on a regular basis. When he starts losing his fight and finally goes to the hospital to die, the scenes of them together, with her gently telling him it's OK to leave her, are some of the most heart-breaking I've ever seen. This is one brave woman. Also, when she's not in her S&M gear, she could easily pass for an kindly elementary school teacher. It's a great contrast to see her tying him up and sticking needles in his groin in one scene, and later to see her rocking and knitting peacefully in another. I was also haunted by the scenes of him dying, the way he looked, and what he said, things that I've heard are very common last words such as, "I never thought this would really happen...this is so weird."
Is this a hard movie to watch? Even if graphic depictions of *very* sensitive areas of the body being nailed, pounded, and pierced don't faze you, I cannot imagine anyone who wouldn't be shaken or at least moved watching the later scenes of this man really, literally dying in front of the camera and your eyes. But I'm glad I saw it. My husband, however, loves documentaries, and even talked about seeing the movie when it was in limited release. I made the mistake of telling him about one of the little demonstrations, and now he refuses to see it, no matter how good it is (and he's sat through some pretty nasty stuff). If you're brave and feeling up to it, though, I highly recommend this movie. If you're easily (or even not-so-easily) grossed-out, but have an interest in the life and death of this man, then just cover your eyes during the graphic parts. And when you hear "Hammer of Love" start playing, you may want to leave the room for a minute or two.