The Framing of Eroticism in Gaspar Noé’s LOVE (2015)
Provocative director, Gaspar Noé, most well known for his 2002 French hit, Irreversible, and psychedelic melodrama, Enter The Void. Noé is not new to shocking audiences with his different take on the cinematic language. Some either hate him or adore him but there is usually no middle ground when it comes to Noé. In 2015 at Cannes Film Festival, Noé would debut his film erotic melodrama, Love in 3D (that I will admit is an odd choice to debut your film especially one that deals with eroticism). Critics tore it apart and even though that is nothing new, one thing stood out to me, the reluctance to call this artistic pornography.
A filmmaker always treads rough waters when discussing or presenting eroticism on screen, one of the earliest examples I can remember eroticism being displayed in full force is Hiroshi Teshighara’s Woman in the Dunes. Of course, we as Americans have been conditioned to view sex on screen as taboo and the extreme accessibility of internet pornography has twisted the viewer from differentiating sex telling a story from sex meant to make someone pleasure themselves.
There are a lot of themes and characteristics of Noé’s film that I have discussed on my long-form podcast, The Cinema Condition, but I want to concentrate on one thing exactly, the framing of the eroticism on screen. You see, something as degrading and artistically bastardized as pornography does not take into effect the value of how human bodies look on screen. It has one mission and only one, to get the viewer watching to orgasm and that is it. The framing of the sex in Love is handled with care and progresses as the relationship of our protagonist continues on. At first, eroticism is framed beautifully as if the sex on screen is magical and full of wonder, but as the relationship progresses the sex becomes much more unorganized. The sex presented is not just there for shock value (even though there are definitely scenes where Noé is inserting something just to shock) but to progress the story of these young lovers and the eventual demise of their relationship.
Some of the shots become less wide and more close up, the characters are rougher with each other’s bodies whereas before they were tender and careful with each other. The frames start to look less like paintings of the romantic period and more like bodies floating through canvas without reason. The red and orange hue start to overtake the screen where there used to be light. We start to understand that our protagonist is going into a hell of his own after losing someone who he loved because of his infidelity.
Now, how are these shots different from the work of directors in the adult industry? There are no shots only meant for the sexual pleasure of the viewer. The shots are carefully framed and selected to show the actions of these two people. Even the three-way scene is not shot for pleasure but instead to show our protagonist’s growing lust for this other woman instead of his girlfriend. Most of these shots are kept in wide shots that transform into medium shots and usually shot from looking down angle instead of the basic point of view. We are made to feel as if we are not just observers of intimacy but observers of a deteriorating love. The eroticism is used to advance the story and further push its themes present within the film.
Ultimately, these things are always up to the director and the vision they want for their work. All I know is that I was tired of seeing something that was crafted with care and respect for the story be compared to something so exploitative like pornography. Each and every one of our bodies is beautiful in their own way. We as artists can present them in several ways deemed necessary. The way we approach and frame the human body can help move along the story we are trying to tell. Every curve, movement, a lock of hair, or fraction of skin is there to flow with the story.