Steambaths and saunas have been popping up a lot in the films I've seen recently. As a bathing enthusiast I notice these scenes where others might not think twice about them. There's a rich mine of material here that will be a fun topic to explore. I hope that over time the column will create a compendium of sauna scenes in film. (Got any sauna scenes to share? Let me know.)
Obviously setting a sauna in a movie serves a purpose. Maybe it's to create atmosphere, advance the plot or send a message. Also we can deconstruct the cultural codes of what is being said about the sauna itself. We'll learn something about how Hollywood/America and other film makers view bathing in a larger social context? And what about symbolism? Whoa baby, look out!
Sweating in a gorilla suit
For the first in this series we have a steambath in (yes, it's true!) Beneath the Planet of the Apes.
Forgive me for going here. It's not like I'm a big fan of the Planet of the Apes franchise. The movies are however an inescapable part of my childhood psyche. I saw Beneath on TV when I was probably nine or ten. I never saw the entire movie so the plot confused me, especially the ending. Just a while ago I ran across the DVD in the local library and I figured it would be worth viewing as light entertainment. Also it could help bring closure to some of my childhood bewilderment.
It's odd how ridiculous the loose-fitting ape suits look. They don't do credit to the original good, if incredibly odd, make-up work on the ape faces. I imagined cheap gorilla suits from some comedy skit you might see on the Benny Hill Show. Give that ape a banana and comedy will ensue.
General Ursus and Doctor Zaius are having a meeting of minds. They discuss invasion of the Forbidden Zone, an area inhabited by humans with psychic powers. Ursus and Zaius have different views. Doctor Zaius has misgivings about undertaking a military campaign. He prefers preserving the status quo. General Ursus is a human-hating xenophobe but also lays down the line that if they don't expand their people will starve. Even though these are two strong personalities with differing views, the shared bathing time creates a space where the two can agree on the plan and work collectively. Here the steambath is a space for ape male bonding time.
"What is more dangerous than famine, Doctor?"
Heavy, Doctor Zaius, heavy.