Film “Touch me not”, awarded on Berlinale by the “Golden Bear” and the prize for the best debut – is real experiment on the viewer.
The experience of watching this film was so unexpected for many that, unable to withstand emotional heat, people left the hall in the middle of the session. This picture opened up for the viewer extremely wide range of physical freedom. Some people simply were not ready for such an intimate dialogue with the screen.
In the center of the plot there is a woman about 60 years old. She does not tolerate the touch of other people. At the same time, she continues to experience a sexual passion, to cope with which in her case becomes an extremely difficult task.
She visits her sick father in a hospital. During these visits, she watches through the window specific training of people who learn the corporeality of each other. In one of the classes they touch each other’s face, on the other – they are exposed to the surrounding people and discuss their bodies. So they try to reveal their sexuality and, having adopted their body, participate in group sex with elements of BDSM.
In parallel, protagonist conducts dialogues with a transvestite engaged in prostitution, and a psychologist helping the main heroine discover the animal energy that was suppressed in herself for decades. In some scenes, protagonist conducts a dialogue with the director of this film Adina Pintilie, breaking the fourth wall of the picture.
The director of the film scrupulously scrutinizes the footage, trying to find the inner content in a variety of scenes that are shown on the screen. The main character, interacting with a variety of people, is experiencing a profound inner transformation.
The same very difficult process is experienced by the secondary heroes, who also work on exploration of their intimacy. The same can be said about the viewer, who during the film is forced to come face to face with the most intimate things, that are so unusual and often unpleasant to say.
The human body in the film is shown as an unexplored territory. Close-ups slip along separate areas of the skin, so that at first glance they seems like a desert or some other unexplored terrain.
During the last century, the civilized world actively expands the limits permissible in relation to the human body. Only over the last hundred years clothes have become more comfortable and frank, operations on the most radical change in appearance (and even sex) have become possible, medicine and psychology have thoroughly scanned the person from all sides, and the palette of sexuality has expanded by 50 shades of not only gray but also many others colors. Pornographic and erotic content has become ubiquitous.
However, despite all this processes people still know very little about their bodies and very badly perceives it. And, despite all the new freedoms of the XX century, it remains in the extremely close framework of its corporeality.
Appearance in picture one of the secondary characters – disabled Christian – has symbolic meaning. This man from birth suffers from spinal dystrophy. His limbs are completely undeveloped, and the body is twisted. Christian chained to a wheelchair forever. He uses his body very moderately but he feels himself very harmonious in this position. His example makes us wonder: maybe we – the owners of healthy bodies – actually use our bodies only partially. Also have reconciled with our inferiorities.
“Touch me not” makes you listen to your body carefully and discover the animal energy. That’s why those who applauded the film during the final credits left after the session with some kind of special fire in their eyes.
It is impossible to distinguish difference between feature and documentary episodes in this film.
“We worked as a laboratory where we talked about our own feelings. I am grateful to all the people who took part in the work, because they opened. I discard any labels regarding our film – it’s a documentary or an feature one, because by part of my participation, the border between fiction and reality is being erased. This film began as a dialogue, it was very important that these people opened to me. And when they started talking to the viewer, they become even more opened. My presence, the presence of the camera helps to constantly feel the situation of dialogue,” – said director.
The atmosphere of the laboratory is felt in many episodes with a sterilely cleaned background. The psychoanalytic scientific nature of the picture here is closely intertwined with the creative experiment. And some episodes resemble art-performance.
Heroes of the film shared very personal experience of overcoming their own limits. They do not play in front of the camera, but voluntarily become participants in the experiment, during which they will have to frankly declare their intimacy, sexuality, fears, feelings, emotions, instincts…As a result, they all revealed their wild energy on the set. The leitmotiv of this awakening volcano of irrational emotions was an explosive soundtrack, in which an animal power was seething.
The manifestation of passion in its pure form is still regarded by society as often a dirty and unacceptable act. But it is in such “dirty” emotions that one gets the opportunity to feel real.
Many episodes of the picture are stunning with their confession. They were filming behind the black curtains, for which only the movie camera was looking. Thus, the person in the frame feels isolated and gets the opportunity to open up to the maximum. Due to such a reception, the film literally winds the spectator into the backstreets of psychology. But entrance to this territories usually barricaded with dogmas.
The main task of the creators of this picture is to study the intimacy of a person. This film goes beyond the scope of documentary, feature or experimental genres. It transcends the limits of what is permitted in the discussion of intimate topics.
Ths film is out of the famous New Romanian wave, despite the fact that the native of this country is the director of the picture. “Touch me not” does not contain anything in common with the Romanian pictures of last years.
Adina Pintilie`s film contains almost nothing in common, for example, with “4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days” Mungiu or “Pose of a Child” of Necera, who won, respectively, in Cannes and Berlin. However, “Touch me not” contrasts almost from any other movie.
In its study of irrational energy and animal instinct film “Touch me not” echoes to the last year’s winner of the Cannes – “Square” by Ruben Estlund. This picture shows that the refined prosperous world of the European culture had come to a standstill and that it is possible to get out of it only through the secret door of instinct. In turn, “Touch me not” tells a more personal story, devoid of massive social pathos. However, the conclusions here are the same: modern man, exploring his body, got into a impasse, and to get out of it is possible only by uncovering subconscious instincts.
“Touch me not” is filled with very intense symbolism. For example, in one of the initial episodes appears a guy engaged in prostitution. He has a tattoo on his body with a text in a foreign language. When the client asks him to explain what this text means, the guy responds that it is personal, and refuses to translate. At the same time this young man takes a shower and masturbates in front of an unknown woman. And this is not as intimate for him as the text of the tattoo on the body.
This episode sets the intonation of the whole film. The authors of the picture emphasize that even if one fully reveals his corporeality, there is usually remains something untold. This idea is subsequently shown in the picture, and is an attempt to read this secret in the body of different people.
Man actively conquers the newest remote areas and decisively subordinates the most complex matter. But, despite all this rapid progress, practically no one can yet say with certainty that he has fully studied and adopted his own body, the closest to his territory.
According to the Adina Pentelie, this film began from the fact that at the age of 20 she felt that she understood her body perfectly and was sufficiently exploring her intimacy. But after years she convinced that she had a lot of questions about these things. Then she started this research.
This is a movie to which very few people are ready. “Touch me not” – the embodiment of absolute freedom. That scared some spectators and left them in deep confusion. But others found inspiration in it. This picture easily changes styles, genres, forms and overcoming the boundaries of generally accepted norms.
Author: Anton Filatov