A Commentary : Boxing Helena
This is an intriguing and erotic film; a psychological study of love denied. Nick (Julian Sands) is besotted by and infatuated with Helena, played by the extremely beautiful and seductive Sherilyn Fenn. Helena however is a woman unworthy of Nick's love. She is physically beautiful but mentally and spiritually shallow, even evil. She is dismissive of Nick from the start. She does not fancy him and in her rebuttal of him is cold, even nasty. She becomes almost satanic in her pagan selfishness and entrenched dislike of what is essentially a good, and to begin with, innocent man. We come to see however, that Nick is a man obsessed. It is an unnatural desire he harbours, almost amounting to worship, of the beautiful Helena. In the end we are at a loss to see why Nick likes her at all. Her character is awful. She is arrogant, and her language can be coarse and sexual. In the end we ask ourselves is Nick really as shallow as Helena, that he wants her at all, after all it is only her physical beauty he is after - she possesses no other redeeming feature. Any sensible man would have lost interest long ago.
Nick is deluded in his pursuit of her; he has an unhealthy obsession that knows no bounds. When she is knocked down by a car outside his mansion he takes the opportunity to incarcerate her in his house and 'looks after' her himself as his profession is doctor. This is where her 'entrapment' begins. He attempts to force her to love him. You cannot make anybody love you. This is the central element of his delusion. He wants to control her, make her right for him. Helena, now disabled, goes into a rage and blames Nick for her accident. She says she hates him. She becomes his prisoner but he tells her he 'has' her, ignoring all her hatred; this is blind love but terribly misguided and wrong. He appears pathetic in his mad pursuit of something she is never going to give - love. Or so we think, until near the end when, after all the torment, her old lover Ray appears and threatens to shoot Nick. Helena cannot let him do it and the shift of feeling, ever since Nick threatened to shoot himself in front of her, is continued.
After Nick has admitted that only by dying can he make Helena happy does she soften. There is a turnaround and she becomes sensual and loving towards him for the first time. Before this she has said Nick is a joke at sex and that she doesn't 'give a shit' about his feelings. Is this a fantasy really where Nick has died in the gun scene and it is his 'heaven' after death which means at last there is love from Helena. Many would think it would take something as drastic as death to change things. But then we must ask ourselves is this all a dream anyway. Towards the end of the film we see Helena in a hospital bed. Did she go to hospital after all and this whole scenario has simply been someone's dream? Either Helena or Nick has dreamed all this maybe, because we see Nick start up in bed too, possibly stirring after a terrible dream, even nightmare. It would seem to be both characters' nightmare.
Images in the film of note, are the appearance of Helena in the window semi-clad, while Nick is up a tree playing the role of voyeur. It is remarkable too that the roles are reversed at the end where Helena is the one spying on Nick when he makes love to another woman. This scene is particularly erotic, as is the scene where Helena dances in the fountain at Nick's party in only her slip. Visually it is good cinema too, when Nick plucks a pinky red rose in the garden. It is beautiful. The rose is symbolic of love, but he is not facing facts, not facing the reality of the situation. This scene is distinctly symbolic of the film's central delusion.
The scene where Helena is flanked by white flowers as if she is on an altar is distinctly symbolic too. She becomes the fallen Madonna with the big boobies in our eyes but not his. To him she is perfect, even holy. Nick deifies her; it is a religious worship but Helena is no virgin Mary. She is completely unworthy of this deification and the irony is strong and potent. It would seem Helena has no spirit; she exists on an earthy sexual plane alone. But Nick is so obsessed that even when he is making love to another woman, his old lover Anne, he sees not Anne but only Helena.
In conclusion therefore, we have a psychologically complex film with many erotic moments. Love and hate are juxtaposed in a maelstrom of unhappiness, delusion and obsession. The contrast of flesh and spirit, good and evil, threads its way through the film in a tantalising psychodrama. The musical soundtrack is very good and one song is particularly relevant, the one that suggests you can't make anyone love you, or can you? Helena does relent at the end. What the film conveys most convincingly however, is the nature of female caprice and affiliation. There seems to be no bitch like Helena and no one as gullible as Nick. The smouldering beauty of Helena will be remembered for a long time, but possibly for all the wrong reasons.