If Something Can Go Wrong, It Will
Long before the 12th Jameson CineFest Miskolc International Film Festival started, it was obvious that Gaspar Noé’s new phantasmagoria, Love would be screened to full houses.
It’s only human nature that we crave scandal, and when someone claims that we’ll see unsimulated sex in an actual movie theatre in 3D, staying at home is not an option. Love is advertised as a film that will turn women on while watching it, but I must confess that my private parts were perfectly chill for the whole time.
In some respects, it’s an average romantic story: two people meet, they fall in love, they have sex, then after a while they split up. But Love is a movie by the director of Irreversible and Enter the Void, therefore it’s anything but ordinary. Two years after the release of Nymphomaniac by the genius Lars von Trier, some say that we’re once again tricked into paying for watching porn on big screens. Personally I believe that the difference between a simple sex tape and an art film about making love can be detected in many ways in both cases. Despite containing an ejaculating penis, Love is somehow classy. Take the soundtrack as an example: with the power of J. S. Bach’s and Erik Satie’s music a raw sex scene turns into something quite beautiful and thrilling. Also, the backgrounds are meticulously designed, and the film contains countless cinematic references from the director’s favourite movies and inspirations. The use of intensive colours (most importantly red as the colour of passion and rage) and special illumination (such as pulsating disco lights and again, the shades of red) are his trademarks. Together they create a somewhat surreal visual world, as if this were a tale that we are being told. Noé is also known for his unusual ways of storytelling. Love opens with the end point of the relationship where the lovebirds go their separate ways. The breakdown of chronological order can be explained by the fact that Murphy, the lovesick main character, remembers his former relationship with Electra after taking opium.
Unfortunately, Murphy’s Law has been proven to be true. Noé’s film-student alter ego declares that he wants to make movies with blood, tears and sperm, capturing the essence of our existence with its most natural elements. For an artist it’s a very respectable ambition, but in my opinion, showing a couple’s most intimate moments is not being unafraid but being indiscreet. There’s a reason why Vincent Cassel and Monica Bellucci finally decided on not making this movie years ago, namely that they didn’t want to invite the whole world into their bedroom. As for the rest of the film, Noé definitely couldn’t kill his darlings: there are lots of visually pleasurable but dramaturgically useless scenes. Again, being honest about human needs and desires is really noble, but watching two people having sex countless times for the camera is tiring rather than exciting.
In press conferences the director has stated that there wasn’t really a script, only a 7 pages long treatment, thus all the dialogue was improvised. It makes sense, because Karl Glusman is the only professional actor, all the other characters are played by keen amateurs who are not afraid of showing their private parts. Seeing new faces is always nice but can be dangerous too. While these people are trying to look good and come up with meaningful sentences, sometimes they act in an unreasonable way. It’s hard to tell, if saying things like “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” or yelling the exact same insults over and over again is more disappointing.
Love is a sentimental fable about what it feels like to be in a love-hate relationship, unveiling some details that most movie makers are too shy to show. This story begins with the end, and ends with the beginning of the affair of two people madly in love with each other. Whether we like the movie or not, Gaspar Noé once again created something that will definitely not be forgotten over the years. Despite all the ups and downs of feeling this way, Love can make people want to fall in love again.
Edited by Neil Young
© FIPRESCI 2015