Director: Todd Haynes
Screenwriters: Todd Haynes

Institute History

  • 1995 Sundance Film Festival


Todd Haynes, who achieved prominence and, in some quarters, notoriety for his innovative and controversial feature, Poison (Grand Jury Prize, 1991 Sundance Film Festival), returns with a superlative exploration of social existence and angst in his new work, Safe. Brilliantly executed, Safe is a remarkably insightful depiction of the underlying threats to normal, day-to day-life.

The film is ostensibly the story of the very upper class, very insular world of a California woman who suddenly and mysteriously is afflicted with a bewildering set of symptoms and maladies, none of which responds to traditional medicine. In searching for a cure, she sees a small advertisement for a program that will alleviate the symptoms of those who suffer from reactions to “fumes.” So begins her voyage into another world of New Age lifestyles and ideas, of environmental hazards and secret perils.

Todd Haynes has structured a story which expresses the inner history of a woman whose life never seems to be her own. She is either totally involved with external things—her children, husband, social affairs—or so internally absorbed that she is almost out of touch with the rest of humanity; alienation doesn’t begin to explain her state of mind. Julianne Moore is simply outstanding as the protagonist, repressed to the point of self-destruction and desperately seeking answers to her plight. This is a remarkably rich film, which works on a number of levels, ranging from sci-fi paranoia about the dangers of modern existence to philosophical allegory to a riveting exposition of New Age coercion and manipulation. Safe is a film about survival as much as life and is a marvelous follow-up to Haynes’s earlier achievement.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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