"A Year Without Love" Sentimental Nudity By Miguel Peirotti
Sex. Sadomasochism. Solitude. This kind of essential triple S in Anahi Berneri’s first feature, A Year Without Love (Un año sin amor), is not an attempt to wage battle against the sensitivity of the filmgoer, who may leave his seat fuming and raving against images which might “hurt his sensitivity”. Nothing could be further from the director’s intentions. Both character and story go their own quiet way with no fuss.
The naturalistic tone of the film enables it to rank as a member of the New Argentine Cinema, making it possible for the general public to absorb the story whose apparently marginal discourse might have trapped it within the four walls of a cinema with “underground” aspirations. It does however, indulge in some features of the “Queer Cinema” variety, as yet almost unseen in Argentina; AIDS is in the air of the hospital corridors; wet kisses between men nudging the self-consciousness of the medium-long shot towards blatant close-ups; leather garments are the norm in sexually risqué scenes, and the characters are trussed, beaten and sodomized in long sessions of consented humiliation.
A Year Without Love is quite a different animal. The film narrates the inner quest (a confessional self exploration) and the outer journey (repeated night sallies in search of sadomasochistic experiences) of Pablo Pérez, a young French teacher, harassed by the kind of loneliness which finds no relief in medication and which the indifference and misunderstandings of those around him exacerbate to an intolerable degree; the malady can only be treated with love and the film makes this clear by criticizing, not without subtlety, the futility of certain ancestral “therapies” institutionalized by society, such as the so-called emotional well-being of the father-son relationship.
Finally, it is as well to keep in mind that A Year Without Love is not a sex film or a film about sex, although the idea is present in, shall we say, unprecedented doses within the context of contemporary Argentine cinema, assuredly one of the most straitlaced in Latin America. Neither does it strive for triple X genital exhibitionism; rather, it bares the sentimental nudity of a humdrum hero attempting to alleviate the pangs of existential isolation. Pablo Pérez reaches the end of his story in the awareness that the journey has only just begun.