Anatomy of Hell

Reviewed By Dr Nick
Posted 08/28/04 02:49:48

"More sex and violence from Breillat. A bloody mess."
2 stars (Pretty Bad)

SCREENED AT THE EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2004: Catherine Breillat’s latest effort sees her continue in familiar territory. Not just loads of nudity and graphic sex scenes, this has plenty of scenes guaranteed to shock the most hardened audiences. Definitely not for everyone, and not really for me, this is nonetheless a film that stays with you for a long time after leaving the theatre.

Rocco Siffredi plays an unnamed gay man, who by accident walks in on an unnamed woman slashing her wrists in a nightclub. “Why did you do that?” he asks her. “Because I’m a woman”, she replies calmly. It’s a hint of what’s to follow. For the next 70 minutes, we’re to be taken on a rollercoaster ride through Catherine Breillat’s sexual universe, where women hate themselves, men fear and hate women and all relationships between the two sexes are based on violence. Or something like that. I really don’t understand what Breillat is trying to say with a film like this. Maybe I don’t know enough about gender politics, but to me it just seems like she’s trying to shock and provoke her audience just for the sake of it. Anyway, after giving unnamed man a blowjob, unnamed woman invites him over to her house, where she offers him money to return every night to “watch her”. On their first night together, he reveals a severe hatred of the female body, comparing women’s skin to that of a frog, but “frogs, at least, have the decency of being green”. He goes on to talk about the obscene nature of women; that women inspire brutality and that the female body calls for mutilation. For the next four nights he returns to her house and their encounters become stranger and stranger. He draws all over her genitals with lipstick, then has sex with her while she’s sleeping. He inserts the shaft of a rake into her while she’s asleep. They keep talking about all men’s urge to kill women and how men have always tried to lock women up, as “they’re afraid women don’t belong to them”. Then she has her period and they share a drink of her menstrual blood. And so it goes on. If you’re into weird stuff, this might just be the ticket.

Even though I don’t really like her work, it’s always interesting to see a new Catherine Breillat film. As you can tell from some of the sample scenes above, she’s not your average director and you always come out confused, with a lot of questions about what it's all supposed to mean. What annoys me most is that she never offers any solutions or a way to improve male-female relations. Here, even gay men can’t resist their manly urge to violate women when the opportunity arises and she seem to suggest that they are gay, not because they are attracted to othe rmen, but because they just fear and hate women more intensively than straight men.

Amira Casar and Rocco Siffredi both put in reasonably good performances. With Siffredi being an experienced porn star, it comes as something of a surprise that he can actually act, but he plays the tortured gay woman hater quite well. Saying that, you always feel that the writing is secondary and only serves as filler between the graphic sex scenes, so there's really not that much acting involved. It's all quite shocking at first, but it all soon becomes boring. Breillat should invest more in a story next time. Maybe then she could make her graphic hardcore porn shots actually mean something, rather than just being there to keep the audience interested in a soulless film.

It’s not an easy film to watch and definitely not for those of you with a weak stomach. If you want to see something different, by all means go and see this. But there are so many better “different” films out there. They just don’t tend to feature sleeping women with garden tools inserted into their vaginas.

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