A Review of Love 3D, Directed by Gaspar Noé
"There's something very old fashioned in the world we live in. You have endless images of cruel or mechanical sex available to young kids, but they are disconnected from real life. The presentation of love in real life is missing from cinemas." Gaspar Noé
Love 3D is sentimental tale of lost love by the Argentine director Gaspar Noé known best for his controversial works Irreversible and Into the Void. Perhaps as a result of the overwhelming quantity of un-simulated sex scenes and violent onscreen ejaculation Love 3D has been the subject of much controversy in the world press. The narrative trails a passionate sexual relationship between a Parisian artist Electra and her lover Murphy, an American filmmaker. Having impregnated another woman, the film opens with Murphy waking on New Year’s Day to find that his lover Electra is missing. In the scenes that follow he re-visits their tumultuous, but tender relationship through a series of powerful flashbacks.
As a film director Noé has a reputation for being quite the provocateur with reports of vomiting and fainting during screenings of his previous works. Upon Love 3D’s release, he declared that his un-simulated (and frequent) sex scenes sought to capture, “the organic dimension of being in love” to confront both the emotional and physical sides of a modern relationship. Reflecting Noé’s Argentinian-Italian roots the film’s cast are suitably international with actors like the dashing American Karl Glusman, Swiss Aomi Muyock and Danish Klara Kiristin. Inexperienced actors were cast to allow for a blank canvas, but his bravery was criticised by the Guardian’s Mark Kermode declaring that, “amid such carnivalesque campery the central trio are humourlessly uninvolving.”
In terms of the narrative, we're told that Murphy is a filmmaker and Electra is an artist, but we never bear witness to either trade, which could be interpreted as a failure to anchor the characters in a creative milieu. But critic Serge Kaganski lamented that, “the organic sex scenes are what save the film from its other pitfalls.” When immersed in the effects of the long-sequence takes and restricted editing, Noé forces you to confront the controversy surrounding sex in cinema. Somewhat optimistically, Noé professed that, “most people have a sexual life that’s not far from the one in my movie.” Given that the scenes are un-choreographed, Noé’s authenticity rebels against the theatricality of contemporary porn. The depth-of-feeling shared by the pair in scenes like their iconic embrace in the bathtub renders the film to be a work of art rather than a mere tool for sexual pleasure.
Although, if we’re getting ideological I would argue that in trying to create an atmosphere of choice, Noé perhaps inadvertently confirms the phallocentric dominance of the film industry. Despite Electra’s willingness to experiment sexually, there is a lingering sense that the pleasure focuses on Murphy’s experiences as it’s filmed from his perspective. That aside, alongside iconic films like Blue Is The Warmest Colour, Noé has rebelled against the stigma surrounding sex in cinema. He declared,
"The last movie where I thought love was truly presented was in "Blue Is the Warmest Color". Because for them it's a battlefield full of joys and pain. That whole thing that makes the process of finding love like an addiction to some kind of weird chemical that your brain is releasing, and you get addicted to serotonin and dopamine, endorphins."
Despite the blood, sperm and tears that went into it, I fear that Love 3D isn’t as powerful as anticipated. Although the somewhat evokative narrative drifts along through a hazy, subdued palette and Electa and Murphy’s rapport is moving at times, I fear that Noé’s desperation to shock weakens the overall effect.
Co-written by Talia Goldman in St Petersburg, Russia and Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, founder of Arteviste.com