“Love” is a celebration of heterosexuality with a few adventures thrown in to keep things interesting. We have a threesome, a bit of S&M and a rather pointless interlude with a trans hooker. Take the sex away (which you cannot do) then this is a story of a young man’s self-imposed self-loathing because, his penis rules him. He makes a series of bad choices and silly decisions.
“Love” is about love and sex and how both sexes interpret, compare and practice them. We learn that infidelity is not infidelity when both partners are present. Director Gaspar Noe has opened the door on sex that some will label immediately as porn. But this is a step above porn in that the sex is handled with style and sensitivity. “Love” is a love story with great passion, lots of sex and addiction. We also hear director Noe’s philosophies on life and love and he shares that love is clearly the meaning behind many of life’s prospects.
Electra (Aomi Muyock) replies to Murphy’s (Karl Glusman) question, “what is the meaning of life?” with the simple answer, “love”. The film is a treatise of love and perhaps a nostalgic love that not all of us are familiar with. Here we see an attribute that makes love the complex sensation that it seeks to be. Love is the foundation of our desires and heartaches as emotional human beings; no one learns these lessons harder than the character of Murphy.
It is hard to watch this film without feeling something. We see magical moments of first love and the first night with a new partner are overwhelmed by the futilities of life’s needs and complications. The expression is bountiful and sticks with us.
Murphy is an American living in Paris who enters a highly sexually and emotionally charged relationship with the unstable Electra. Unaware of the effect it will have on their relationship, they invite their pretty neighbor into their bed. I have no doubt that there will be those who will criticize the film because of the sexual content. However, it is so much more than just sex. We see its importance and that it is natural in any loving relationship. Noé indulges in the fantasies of a young couple, in what is an honest attempt at the intricacies of the sexual relationship within the hunger of love. These scenes can be explicit on the eye, but they are without doubt thoughtfully and breathtakingly crafted sex scenes.
Murphy himself is an aspiring film director and has his own philosophy on the medium that he wishes to share with Electra. He wants to now why no one has made a film of partners in love having explicit sex. Of course, there is irony here especially when we see Murphy’s own desires through Murphy himself. He also believes that blood, sperm and tears formulate the essence of life and can’t understand why movies don’t reflect this. These aspects of the human being certainly stand true to many manifestations, notably the tears that come with one’s outward suffering, the sperm with an essential private pleasure, and the blood as the component fuelling the interior toxins of life. We see an explosion of such fluids in the film.
When a film has such a strong vision and an abundance of things to say, it is difficult to review. The sex we see is not gratuitous. It is justified in a story that focuses on the trials of young love. “Love” was filmed in 3D because it is designed as a completely immersive experience. In the opening scene, Murphy wakes up and announces that “I wish I didn’t exist right now.” His ex-girlfriend and love of his life, Electra has gone missing, and the news knocks him into a state of complete unrest that aligns perfectly with the film’s artful style. We get a suggestion of the perverse. , Electra and Murphy, as well as Omi (Klara Kristin), the woman he lives with at the start of the film and his child’s mother, are constrained by Noé’s predetermined vision of the way that people talk, fight, and have sex, only here the talk is stupid, the fighting violent, and the sex unsimulated. It seems that the film is trying to represent on screen Noe’s nostalgia for the lack of inhibitions when there are few cares aside from sex.
It is easy to discuss the film just through the lens of the movie’s sex. There’s a lot of it, and it’s explicit, with unsimulated sex scenes making up a significant portion of the film’s two hour running time. However, to only discuss the sex would mean ignoring the aims of the film that love is really just a act of provocation. What little narrative there is tells the story of the love triangle between Murphy, Electra and Omi and Murphy’s determination to find Electra after her mother (Isabelle Nicou) informs him of her disappearance. As a result of the news, he begins reflecting on their relationship, and the film becomes a non-linear exploration of the romance between the two.
Murphy and Electra’s relationship is interrupted through the inclusion of Omi who joins their life via a threesome. Soon after, Electra leaves town, and Murphy uses her absence as an opportunity to sleep with Omi without Electra’s interference. In the midst of their affair, a condom breaks, and Omi gets pregnant. The roles reverse, and he ends up in a relationship with her, with Electra as the subject of his adulterous desire.
What the three-way demonstrates, as does much of the film, is just how much of a narrative one can tell through sex. Noé uses his sex scenes to delve into the relationships between characters. There are clear narrative implications when, for example, Murphy decides to pleasure Omi rather than Electra, and the scenes wouldn’t be able to convey the same meanings without this explicitness Rather than merely featuring the scenes for the sake of depicting graphic sex, Noé uses the graphicness to get into a level of detail about the relationships between his characters most films are unable approach. Using these very details, Noe creates a somewhat disturbing look at gender relations.
Noé then combines these details within the wider structure of the film to create a disturbing and powerful portrait of gender relations. We see many variations of sex and the differences are used to give us an intimate look at the arc of a relationship. What this does is make the film a story told through sex. As a result, “Love” becomes an all too rare thing in cinema: a story told through sex. Noé treats sex with the importance and reverence it deserves. Too many filmmakers simply gloss over it through elision and this deprives us of learning about the nature of a relationship. The use of 3D punctuates the action and allows for a powerful connection between film and viewer. This connection is only possible through explicit sex like we have here.