Sometimes it’s easy to forget about the art of film making as we sit in dark movie theaters watching Dinosaurs attack the same island they attacked 20 years before, or watching Vin Diesel do something ridiculous in a muscle car for the 7th time. Our need to escape into movie-land can often times lead us down a redundant path, but if we’re lucky enough to see a film that transcends typical blockbuster fare, it can be the kind of experience that profoundly affects you in ways we often forget film is capable of. Love is that kind of film.
The stark reality to Gaspar Noé’s vision of young reckless love is often shocking, sometimes beautiful and at times, completely crushing. It is a tumultuous journey that hits at the very core of our deepest emotions. It is love laid bare.
The characters at the core of Love are an American film student named Murphy (played by the charismatic Karl Glusman) who, while attending school in Paris, falls for a mysterious young art student named Electra (played with guile by model Aomi Muyock). The film perfectly showcases what it is to be in your early 20’s and completely, obsessively in love. All the sex, fighting, selfishness, poor judgement and fun play out in such a realistic way, at times the movie feels more like you’re peering through a young couple’s apartment window than sitting in a theater with 3D glasses on (Editor’s Note: We do not recommend you peer through anyone’s window).
The film takes in the present with Murphy, living with his new girlfriend and their son. He feels trapped and resentful of his station in life, when suddenly he receives a phone call that sends him into a spiral of recall and regret. The mother of his former love, Electra, believes that something may have happened to her daughter. It’s clear that Electra has been on his mind anyway, but now, questioning her fate, he can’t stop his mind from flooding with memories of their love, for better or worse.
The power of Love’s narrative comes from its non-linear storytelling. With each scene played out as a vignette in the memory of Murphy, who is remembering all the key moments of his affair with Electra, but never in any kind of chronological order. This gives the film the ability to be as emotionally versatile as it chooses, picking the moments to be happy or sad, not a slave to the ABC’s of a typical movie. It’s a wonderful method, and as a viewer you’re never too confused by the story, it doesn’t matter when this moment or that moment happened, what matters is the overhead view of this relationship and how it affected you while watching it. That being said, this emotionally targeted way of telling a story can leave the viewer in a bit of a mangled emotional wreck by the time the end credits roll, which of course is the point.
But enough with all this film talk, let’s get to the sex!
Many headlines about Love will focus on sex, after all the vast majority of the movie involves graphic scenes of bodies intertwined, so much so you might be able to create a Youtube comparison video split screening scenes from Love with the Kama Sutra. There is a ton of graphic sex in this movie. You get many scenes of Murphy and Electra engaging in various risque acts, threesomes, public sex, sex clubs, and more. We know it sounds like a lot, and it might feel overwhelming and strange to some of you, but we have to stress that it would be entirely incorrect to view this movie as pornography.
The sex in this movie plays to the emotions of the characters, it morphs and changes as their relationship changes, it is as much a character as Murphy and Electra. In Noé’s masterful hands, we see a true artist who is able to depict sex in a way that feels sensual, real, and never edges towards exploitative. That doesn’t mean some of you won’t be clutching your pearls from the get go.
The only way to truly enjoy Love is to throw away your preconceived notions about watching sex acts play out onscreen, and you need to do it before you sit down to watch, because the first scene will hit you like a truck. Two people, naked in bed, experiencing the pleasure of indulging in each others’ bodies. There is a reason this movie is unrated, and no one under the age of 18 should be watching.
Love is an apt name for this film, because anyone who has been in a true relationship knows that love is a double edged sword. Love can be beautiful, love can be pain, love can be poetry, love can be a weapon, and if you’re lucky love can be art. Noé has created one of the most visceral and impactful visions of realistic people in love that we have ever seen.
If you can get past the taboo feeling of seeing people make love in front of you, you will get the luxury of watching something honest, riveting, painful, sexy, funny, and brutal. The kind of rare film that is as equally emotionally gratifying as it is devastating.
If you can see it in 3D, it’s a strange experience, but well worth it! Also, you might want to have at least a one seat buffer between you and the other strangers in the audience. Not recommended for a first date.
Love will be in Los Angeles theaters Nov. 6.