Shower is a short film directed by Henry K. Norvalls that takes place in the intimate setting of a men’s shower room. It’s a film that incorporates elements of sexuality, voyeurism, gender and gender norms in an effort to show the change in a person’s actions when they know they’re being watched. A man hears a strange noise while taking a shower and goes to investigate it. His discovery and reaction to the source of the sound explores the fragile nature of masculinity.
There are two main characters in this film and neither have names nor is anything really known about them prior to this situation. The only possible clue is that one of the characters had goggles and a swim cap on, which suggests that he might be on a swim team. However, it’s not something that seems relevant to the story or to the understanding of the events that unfold. Rather, the ambiguity of the backgrounds of these two men allows a freedom of self to emerge. Who they are outside of this shower room is not important. The focus is on who they are in this private moment of temptation because when a person knows they are not being watched, they give in to their most natural impulses.
It’s significant that the character who hears the sound tries to learn more about it without actually being seen himself. He moves closer and then quickly hides in the nearest shower when he thinks the person has caught him. This instinct of satisfying our own desires by observing and remaining unseen by the object of our attraction is called voyeurism. It’s something that any audience member can experience when they watch a film if they know that the character is unaware of being watched. Voyeuristic pleasure expresses a great deal about who we are as people because it hints at what we’re attracted to, but often are too afraid to admit to the world. It’s the internal desires that cannot become external realities.
In this case, through the act of spying, the man is revealing a sexual attraction to another man. For a while, he stays hidden perhaps because he’s conflicted about any emotions that arise from the sound. Then, there is that shot of him staring into the wet mirror of the shower and he hits it in frustration toward these confusing feelings. That action is really about him trying to suppress his feelings because they complicate the norms of masculinity. So that small act of aggression is an attempt to maintain his masculinity.
One of the most beautiful quotes in the film that almost seemed directed at the audience was “Why didn’t you leave right away?” When we’re watching a film and a scene becomes too intense or if it’s about to show something awful, some people turn away. There also the ones that continue to look because they need to satisfy their own curiosity. In this film, that character’s decision to stay expresses his sexual desire to watch the other man masturbate. It’s not something he wants to admit because if he did then it would make him more confused about his identity. Instead of explaining the situation through words, the film uses impulsive actions between the two men to show their feelings.
A mutual look of desire is exchanged between the two of them. The man who was spying is now confronting his feelings through action. They share a gentle kiss and for a second, it seems like they’re a couple of lovers having a beautiful moment to themselves in the shower room. There isn’t any tension or discomfort until another man walks in. Having the stranger approach the scene disrupts the freedom of the private space of the shower room setting. These two people were able to express affection without being watched or judged by the outside world, but now they know they’re being watched. The ease of the scene falls apart and notice how the camera hardly even focuses on the reaction of the old man that has just walked in. It’s only showing the expressions of the two guys because the film is not about how the outside world judges the intimacy between two individuals. It’s about how an individual who is not entirely comfortable with their sexual desires feels defined by the outside world and how they act when they know they’re being watched.
The man who was spying is the only one who appears to be worried in this scene. He looks around him out of despair and fear because now he feels his masculinity is being judged. He doesn’t even bother using words to explain himself. His first instinct is to use violence as a means of dealing with the confusion and the frustration. Perhaps throwing some punches is a way to save himself from being judged as well. It made me realize how often violence becomes a coping mechanism for shattered masculinity. That is simply because masculinity is confining at times. It employs gender norms such as: strength being shown in the physical rather than the emotional, certain colors not being appropriate like pink, sensitivity being a weakness…etc. These standards are expected for every man and yet that is not what every individual finds true of themselves. Instead of allowing a person to be whichever definition of themself that they want to be, masculinity constricts and the result is a fragile human being that acts out of fear rather than love.