Todd Haynes’ Poison

A child is born and he is given a name. Suddenly, he can see himself. He recognizes his position in the world. For many, this experience, like that of being born, is one of horror.1

DURING THE OPENING CREDITS of Todd Haynes’ recent film Poison, a boy’s hand slowly riffles through the objects in his foster parents’ bedroom. The room is dark, and the camera wanders contemplatively along with the child’s fingers as they grasp seductive things—sequined fabric, a strand of pearls, silk brocade, a tassel, coins, a hairbrush, a porcelain box—and then, one by one, set them back in place. The scene is a visual celebration of human sensuality. Yet it ends with a sharp rap on a child hand: “Miserable little thief,” his foster mother screams angrily. “Beggar, failure, thief, bandit!” The camera shifts to reveal a cute blond-haired boy. His eyes are fixed on his foster parents, his face rigid

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