Donkey Punch, a gripping 2008 British film directed by Oliver Blackburn (E Street Cinema, Washington, D.C.), and The Accident, a play be Hillel Mitelpunkt directed by Sinai Peter (Theater J, Washington, D.C., February 4 – March 8, 2009); render similar facts in portraying individual conscience grappling with the moral foundations of civilized society.
In the movie, a sex act overlaid by alcohol and drugs unexpectedly ends the life of a young woman. In the play, two men and a woman in front of their vehicle’s headlights in the middle of the night debate a pedestrian that the driver among them has just struck and killed.
The morality of reporting or concealing conduct gone horribly awry is parsed savagely in the movie and delicately in the play. Was the victim’s death inevitable, avoidable, partly their own doing or some form of homicide? How many persons share responsibility? These cinematic and theatrical works deliver at opposite ends of the conduct-versus-words continuum; much as the aggressive physicality in Lord of the Flies contrasts starkly with the speeches exchanged in Sophocles’ Antigone.
Donkey Punch is a British class struggle and tale of unprincipled youth. It mixes together virulent conflicting goals of cover-up, moral imperative and self defense leading to catastrophic consequences. Unlike deceased U.S. servicemen landing in Delaware, the victims here are graphically within our view.
The theme of both works is precisely the same; physical and emotional damage from attempting to cover up questionable conduct far surpasses any “harm” that may result from prompt reporting. Forty years after the drowning death of Mary Jo Kopechne at Chappaquiddick Island, I tend to think U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy would agree.