FUR: Movie Response
I have watched many of Robert Downey Jr.s movies, however, before this, I had never heard of the movie Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus. It showed many a whole new direction of photography. I have always been more focused on the literal side of photography, both architecturally and commercially. In the movie, Fur, Diane explores taking images of subjects that are outside of the norm. Diane’s husband, on the other hand, takes photographs of what society is accustomed to. His work is all about the fashion industry, taking photographs for magazines and major businesses. While her husband reached high levels of fame for photographing the norms of society, Diane was often called “Strange” for her subject matters and methods of shooting. Diane’s work began as an experiment. She wanted to just try photography, after being her husband’s assistant for so many years. It grew from an experiment into a hobby, and eventually her entire identity. This movie helps to explain the difference between photography as an art form and photography as a tool for tourists. Diane would begin to spend months getting to know her subjects at a personal level. For example: at the very beginning of the movie, Diane is seen walking into a nudist colony to take photographs. She is greeted by a male and female nudist who ask her to disrobe as well. At the end of the movie, the same scene is shown with Diane walking through the yard nude. She got so involved in her work that it eventually became how she lived her life. She wanted to find inspiration for her subject and provide a spark of meaning in the photographs. As photographers, we should strive to find meaning in our own work. Diane’s methods of knowing her subject shows how artists can eventually become so consumed by their work that it becomes who they are, their new identity.
Robert Downey Jr, or Lionel Sweeney, is the most complex character in the movie. Lionel Sweeney was a mysterious man with the symptom Hypertrichosis. Hypertrichosis is known as the werewolf syndrome, a disease that causes excessive body hair. Lionel Sweeney had moved into the apartment above Diane Arbus. Sweeney was a complex man who came from the world of freaks and marginalized people. People who never really felt accepted or appreciated. Seeing Diane curiosity with it all, Sweeney allows her into his apartment. Once inside, Diane’s career was past the point of no return. Lionel Sweeney showed her the whole world society didn’t want her to see; the abnormal side of society. On Diane’s wedding anniversary, Lionel explains to her how he was having emphysema, a disease that alters your breathing, and would die very soon. Finally, later in the movie, just before Lionel is going to die, he asks Diane to cut all of his hair and photograph his portrait. Afterwards, Lionel takes Diane to his favorite place on the beach. Lionel then swam deep into the ocean and drowned himself. He wanted to end his own life before the disease, emphysema, could end it. Despite all of his setbacks in his life, Lionel Sweeney lived his life without regrets and just accepted his situation. He didn’t mind what society said about him. He had his own hidden society of people in similar situations as him. Another aspect that I admired of Lionel Sweeney was how, after seeing Diane Arbus’ interest in his life, allowed her into his world. Showing her parts of society her rich parents would never understand.