Albert Serra, France/Portugal/Spain, 2019
Erm…WTF?! This was boring nonsense. The trailer makes it look like dastardly French Revolution-era intrigue, but it was just two hours of a night in the woods of voyeuristic sexual debauchery.
Reading up about it afterwards, there’s a lot of thought gone into it – ideas about voyeurism as a social leveller, how sexual urges cancel out any kind of vanity and notions of what is traditionally beautiful or ugly. It was developed from an art installation at the Reina Sofia in Madrid about 18th century cruising. But this subtext was lost on me, I’m afraid. The only thing I understood from it is that watching other people do lewd things is a bit sexy and titillating at first, but it gets very dull very quickly.
It’s shot beautifully, at night in some atmospheric woods, soundtracked by the nighttime music of summer insects. Many of the camera angles and framing are unusual, so you (thankfully) couldn’t always tell what was happening nor who was doing it, which didn’t matter anyway. Was that the point?
The best bit was a full-frontal shot of a woman peeing. There’s something you don’t see every day! I was hoping for something at the end that might make it all make sense, like when the end of Martyrs (brutal French horror from 2008) redeems the relentless violence you’ve just subjected yourself to, and raises it to a more sublime level. But no, not here: dawn came, the night ended, and we were all grateful that the ordeal was over.