"Painless" Gives New Appreciation For Pain

Jul 23, 2018

For many of us, pain is a daily part of life. Maybe it’s stubbing a toe, maybe it’s chronic back pain. Either way, a lot of money and effort go into finding ways to reduce pain.

But what if you couldn’t feel any pain? It wouldn’t be as great as you might think.

A new film called Painless explores the dark side of a real -- and very rare -- condition called congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis or CIPA.

“Pain is really our first teacher,” writer, director, and producer Jordan Horowitz told Living Lab Radio. “Even though we complain about being in pain all the time, it’s the thing that teaches us how to protect our bodies growing up.”

The film is narrative fiction, but has a documentary feel to it, especially in the opening scenes. A boy is seen in home movie-type footage putting himself into terrible danger -- at one point putting his hand in a pot of boiling water. Horowitz said these scenes were to help explain why the main character, Henry Long, has become lonely and reclusive as an adult. His lack of physical pain has become an intense emotional pain.

“[Pain] is what we all as a collective humanity, share,” Horowitz said. “For some reason he has it in his head that he can never have a normal, happy life unless he cures himself of this condition.”

Henry can’t get his hands on some of the drugs he needs for his experiments and gets involved with a rogue scientist with shaky ethics and his own questionable agenda.

Horowitz said he wasn’t trying to make a political statement with the film, but he likes the way it makes us think about pain in a different light.

“For me, for example, there was a time when I thought I was cursed because I was suffering from severe back spasms,” he said. “If you couldn’t feel any pain at all, it would be worse.”

The film Painless will be shown at the Woods Hole Film Festival on Sunday, July 29 at 9:00 PM.