How to Do Sex in Films (Part 2 of 2)



(featured image pixabay-Unsplash)

I, You, He She: This one comes from I, You, He, She a 1974 feature by Chantal Akerman and as with the two scenes discussed in my previous post, the strength of the scene comes from what it says about the relationship between its characters, in this case a drifting misanthrope played by Akerman and a former girlfriend of hers played by Claire Wauthion. The scene comes about after Akerman arrives at Wauthion’s house unannounced, with Wauthion proceeding to feed her bread with butter and Nutella, all the while asking her to leave.

Ultimately, the two end up having sex in a scene that lasts around 5 or 7 minutes, with it ending via a cut to the morning after and Akerman leaving Wauthion as she sleeps. The scene is shot in a way that both bodies are in the frame at all times as the characters display a sort of aggressive athleticism to their intense display of intimacy. The moment is shot in black and white and Akerman never uses a close up, preferring to showcase the sex in as unfiltered of a way as possible in order to increase the naturalism of the moment. The scene is juxtaposed with a prior moment of sexuality in the film whereby Akerman engages sexually with a truck driver, though in that moment only the driver’s face is visible in the shot. That moment emphasizes on how such one-sided sexual encounters are never equivocal, as the driver is clearly trying to take advantage of Akerman rather than form a reciprocating connection. The sex with Wauthion however, is a much more unifying factor with at times it being difficult to tell whose body is whose. Both scenes speak to the theme of “connection’ in the film, as the film’s plot revolves around Akerman leaving her self-imposed exile in her one room apartment in an attempt to see if she can succeed in connecting with people again. In this way, the sexuality in “I, You, He, She” is meant to serve as character development, with such moments given care and weight in regards to the films’ themes.

What Don’t Look Now, Boogie Nights, and I, You, He She teach filmmakers is that sex should never be incendiary to the plot. It ought to be pivotal as a means of either developing the characters or accentuating the themes/setting, never solely as a means of aesthetics. Film can be an outlet for us to learn about the world and human interaction, and future filmmakers need to give the sex the nuance and contextual strength that it has in reality,  in order for audiences to gain a multi-faceted outlook on it.

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