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Anatomy of Hell DVD (18)

Anatomy of Hell DVD (18)

Dir: Catherine Breillat, 2004, France, 80 mins, French with English subtitles
Cast: Amira Casar, Rocco Siffredi, Jacques Monge

Described as 'explicit, extreme and extraordinary', in the trailer for theatrical release, this film does not fail on any of these points. According to its director Catherine Breillat, she wants to portray the idea of Adam and Eve and their struggle at the beginning of the world. Two people, one a gay man (Siffredi) and the other an attention-seeking woman (Casar) meet in a nightclub where 'men only want men', but the latter is there for the sole purpose of brokering a deal with a man who will, 'watch me where I'm unwatchable'.

It is a story of confrontation between the first man and woman, stripped down to a duologue to illustrate, in Breillat's words, 'the theorem of anatomy and desire' between the sexes. It is about the act of lovemaking and how the participants can arrive at transcendence and eternity through love rather than the common feeling of guilt about sex in society where the organic genitalia are seen to be aesthetically displeasing and embarrassing.

The audience is thus asked to embark on a journey lasting four nights, where the unnamed woman tries to illustrate to her similarly unnamed partner how to reach the transcendental point of giving oneself totally in love, via the sexual act and its intimacy. It is a hard ride, but worth enduring.

The special features on the disc are limited to the theatrical trailer, a picture gallery and an interview with the Breillat herself. The latter is of most interest, (though at 1hr 10mins it can drag in places), and it is worth watching before the film for viewers to gain the most of the messages beneath the visual feast. Breillat has a unique perspective on life, and through her novel Pornocracie, delivered a poetical fiction on life and sex. To transfer a vision such as this to the screen is no mean feat. Without this interview much is lost of the underlying themes of the novel.

The interview is an enlightening, philosophical review of Breillat's feminism and femininity. Her perspective on how we are who we are and the difference between men and women is that men actually lack ovaries, rather than the more widely accepted Freudian concept of women being born with penis envy. Her perspective is interesting, partially because it is a completely female perspective, and partially because it is a perspective that is not aired commonly in the world in which we live. A lot of it makes a great deal of sense, and fortifies the film, giving the viewer a greater clarity of her vision.

It is a hard film to watch and comprehend, but that is probably because one does not come across an idea of love in life like this, very often. Yeats must have had difficulty finding an audience with his metaphysical vision in the first instance, but when people understood he was applauded; the same could be true of Breillat.

Special features: Extensive film notes also included.

Matthew Roman Kopinski

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