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Sex in Sinema

A wave of new films are depicting explicit sex as an integral everyday part of their stories

Taken from the December issue of Dazed & Confused:

Ninja Thyberg Challenges Porn Cliches

Ninja Thyberg’s short Pleasure was the only Swedish film in competition at Cannes this year, and its porn-world focus drew sceptics. Nevertheless, it bagged the prestigious Critics’ Week award, silencing doubters and flagging the bold Stockholm-based director as a rising talent. Playing with power, gender and sexuality, the film sees the career ambitions of a porn star (played by Jenny Hutton) affronted by a colleague who’s agreed to a double-anal scene. By showing what happens between takes, it humanises the character and her relationship to her work conditions. Thyberg tells us why screen sex needs shaking up.

“I discovered it’s only the female body that becomes the sexual object. The male body and face is mostly cut out, besides the dick of course” – Ninja Thyberg 

 “I’ve been interested in porn as a topic for a long time. As a 16-year-old I was an angry anti-porn activist, organising strip-club blockades, spraying sex-shop windows. Later I was making porn myself, but independent feminist porn. At university I made a study of frequently viewed porn clips on the net. I discovered it’s only the female body that becomes the sexual object. The male body and face is mostly cut out, besides the dick of course. The men were described as huge, the women as tiny. She’s the one who groans and begs for more. She looks into the camera and communicates with the viewer – he never does. 

With Pleasure, I wanted to portray the living people behind these stereotypes and examine social structures and mechanisms that extend far beyond the porn world. It was important for me to illuminate the characters in soft, beautiful light and not fall into the cliché of the dirty and miserable. A lot of people see sex as something ‘natural’ – that we not only undress our clothes but also our culture when we go to bed with someone. I think almost everything in our behaviour is something we learn from watching other people or listening to stories of other people’s experiences. For a long time, porn has had the monopoly on showing explicit sex, so it’s a big problem that the gender roles are still extremely stereotypical. The reason our culture today is so obsessed with sex is because there are a lack of relevant references.” 

Maja Milos: Use Your Phone

Serbian director Maja Miloš’s controversial debut feature, Clipshows a new generation of teenagers in Belgrade’s suburbs obsessed with recording their exploits and negotiating their sexual relationships through mobile-phone imagery. Miloš explains why she shoots on a phone – and what to watch out for.

“Shooting with mobile phones is a part of our lives, but the internet is overloaded with videos of everything. So the main question is not how and what to shoot, but how and what not to. If you see a crowd of mobile phones recording an event, don’t do it yourself. Enjoy the moment. If you want to see it again, you’ll find dozens of videos of it.

“If you make a homemade sex film, try not to lose it...” – Maja Milos

But if you decide to make a video clip on your mobile phone, review it carefully. Usually it shows much more than you’d expect. It’s a great way to see what was hidden. By the way you shot it you can find out how you felt, things you weren’t aware of at all. The expressions, emotions, reactions – you’ll discover new things about yourself."

"Use your mobile-phone camera as another person who is present at an event. The camera can add drama to the situation. This applies mainly for shooting sex.

Most professionals are prejudiced and think that shots made with a mobile phone are replaceable, unimportant. Use it and have fun with actors. You can have a small crew, shoot it yourself, put the camera in any thinkable place — even better for sex scenes. 

If you make a homemade sex film, try not to lose it...”

Fyzal Boulifa: Internet Sex Takes You to Dark Places

Filmmaker Fyzal Boulifa’s first feature, Teenage Model, is a twisted, savagely funny portrayal of a teen net obsessive that turns on Amber, a 16-year-old girl from an economically meagre background who’s fixated on making it to LA to meet adult star Sasha Grey and find fame. She enters an online erotic modelling contest, competing for the most “likes” for uploaded pictures. “Because she has no reason to believe otherwise, she defines her life by these little numbers on her laptop screen. It takes her to dark places,” Boulifa explains. “Her inner monologue is a trashcan of song lyrics, celebrity quotes and self-help tips. She’s alarmingly stupid, but also a pure expression of values that are everywhere. Because of these values she suffers a lot – so much so she comes to another, visionary understanding. She’s a teen nympho Patrick Bateman crossed with Joan of Arc.” 

Alain Guiraudie on Why Graphic Sex Isn't Dirty

Alain Guiraudie’s Stranger by the Lake is one of several films featuring intense gay romances to have crossed over to straight audiences this year (see also Abdellatif Kechiche’s Palme d’Or-winning Blue is the Warmest Colour and Tomasz Wasilewski’s Floating Skyscrapers). Guiraudie’s feature went all-out with explicit scenes. Speaking to us at the Festival do Rio, he says that shooting sex shouldn’t have to equal spectacle.  

“I haven’t seen many movies that show sexuality realistically, even between men and women” – Alain Guiraudie

“I’d never spoken in my movies before about my own sexuality – sexuality between men – or passionate love. I wrote and shot it almost like a documentary. The big objective of cinema for me is to show reality and make it bigger than life so it enters another dimension – something fantastic or dreamlike. 

It was a political question for me. I want to speak about desire and love, and now we’re able to speak of universal love with a homosexual story. I haven’t seen many movies that show sexuality realistically, even between men and women. We show a few seconds sometimes while they’re making love, but it’s very fake. It’s time for us to mix the sexual organs and great emotional love scenes. We used to consider these organs as something very dirty, and classified this as pornographic cinema, while considering love, passion and kisses as being on the side of lyrical cinema and poetry. But the sexual organs can take part in poetry too.”