The ten minutes from the Cannes winner I dread
There was a lot of cheering when the winner of the most prestigious prize at Cannes was announced, Blue is the Warmest Colour.
The main reason for the enthusiasm was hopefully that it’s a good movie that deserves the award. Every critic I’ve heard so far has been lyrical about it. But it appears also that it might have played in a little that the movie was about lesbian love, a theme that hasn’t been explored overly much in movies (apart from porn, which is a different business). The win felt like a victory and a step in the right direction towards equal treatment of all people, regardless of sexual preferences.
It’s still unclear when this movie will arrive at Sweden, but based on all recommendations I’ll see it if I get the chance. However there’s one thing about it that I dread, and this is what this post is going to be about.
I’m talking about the sex scene.
Now is the time for a bit of clarification: I have nothing against sex scenes from a moral point of view. People can run around full frontal nude over the screen if they like, either they’re shaped as Michael Fassbender or as an ordinary human being without me being bothered. And I’m comfortable with all sorts of love: gay, lesbian, poly, s/m. As long as it concerns consenting adults, I have no objections.
But nevertheless I dread the sex scene that everyone is talking about in the regards of this movie. Not because it’s lesbian, but because it’s freaking ten minutes long.
Ten minutes! After even one minute of the usual mandatory-sexual-intercourse in a movie, I’m starting to check my watch, waiting for it to be over. Or – depending on the circumstances – I’m looking in another direction since I’m embarrassed.
Reactions to sex scenes
Boredom is my most usual reaction to sex scenes. I just don’t see the point of watching the act in detail, similar to how I don’t enjoy staring at someone doing push-ups, eating breakfast or going to the bathroom. Am I supposed to study their facial expressions to learn something more about the inner lives of the characters? Well, I may be very insensitive, but I don’t learn anything at all. All I see is two actors pretending they’re having sex, wishing it was over. And I’m all on their side.
Shame is another reaction, though not quite as common. This usually happens when I’m watching the movie in company with someone else. Family members are arguably the worst. You know how it is. You thought the movie was SFF, Safe For Family, and your parents or children are sitting next to you and then all of a sudden the scene shifts and they’re moving towards the bedroom and you whisper “no, please don’t go there”, but that’s exactly where they’re going. So you stare out in the blue, waiting for it to be over, pretending your family isn’t there, pretending this didn’t happen.
Scepticism happens too. Positions that I can’t fathom are comfortable or even doable practically are presented as Earthshattering, making you wonder if the person who wrote it ever has had sex apart from in the imagination.
A little touch of envy. I stare at the naked body of young star actress, sculptured into perfection by years of strict dieting and reoccurring surgery. And since I’m so bored, my mind will start to wander and gloomy thoughts about my own shortcomings in this department will appear, thoughts like: “I need to buy a new swimming suit this summer and do I really need to try it on in front of a mirror? I’d rather pull out my teeth without painkilling.” Yeah.
Excitement? Never. Fortunately, I may add. Sitting in theatre, that sort of reaction would feel awkward. If I wanted to get aroused by watching movies, there are plenty of them out there that are designed for this purpose and probably make the work more efficiently.
Sometimes I wish they could just replace the sex scene with a written sign, like the one they used to have in silent films: “And then person X and person Y had sex. They liked it/didn’t like it.” And then they could move on, saving us the drudgery.
A list of sex scenes
I know this post contains a very negative outlook on sex scenes in movies. To counter it I tried to come up with a list of good examples, sex scenes that worked for me, that didn’t bore me, scenes that were meaningful and conveyed something that couldn’t have been said any other way.
It turned out to be harder than I had imagined. Tom Tykwer’s 3, about a man and a woman falling in love with the same man, could be a candidate. And Shame would lose its meaning if you took away the sex scenes. But after that I halted, couldn’t come up with anything. Perhaps you can come up with some suggestions.
I’ll finish this post where I started it: with the ten minute sex scene. Now you know why I dread it.
There was a Swedish film critic reporting from Cannes who had a different view. She insisted on that this particular sex scene was the best one she’d ever seen on a screen and that from now on sex scenes in comparison.
I hope she’s right.