Sex and Lucia (Sexo y Lucia (Spain-France, 2001)

Postmodern tragedy

Postmodern tragedy

Director – Julio Medem
Producer – Fernand Bovaira, Enrique Lopez Lavigne
Script – Julio Medem
Art Direction – Montse Sanz
Cinematography – Kiko de la Rica
Music – Alberto Iglesias
Cast – Paz Vega, Tristan Ulloa, Najwa Nimri, Daniel Freire
Running time 128 mins.

Narrative, and shifting identities, are themes that run through Medem’s films which, along with his striking visual style, have contributed to him being seen as an arthouse auteur. Indeed, it is tempting to go the whole auteur hog and use biographical details of Medem’s life to try and make sense of his films. Although he is a Basque filmmaker he had not made films specifically about the region until his most recent film the documentary La Pelota vasca. La piel contra la piedra (Basque Pelota. Skin Against Stone, Spain, 2003). His films have, however, have dealt with the Civil War (eg Vacas, (Cows),1991) so it is worth noting that his father was German; a particularly important nationality in Lovers of the Arctic Circle (1998). But as our perspective on narrative we shall focus on the postmodern narrative of the film.

Postmodern films, amongst a plethora of other things, highlight their own existence as a medium, not in the modernist (or Brechtian) purpose of alienating audiences from the text, as in Vivre sa Vie, but in order to question the notion that anything can have definitive meaning. The title sequence of Sex and Lucia (in Spanish the title, Lucia y El Sexo, draws attention to the character before the libido), appears as if it is being typed – using traditional typewriter font – on a word processor, and a central character is a novelist, the fabricated nature of the film is immediately emphasised.

In mainstream cinema we expect the narrative world (diegesis) presented to be logical, in its own terms. The cause-effect chain of narrative is crucial in creating a convincing canvas on which events are acted out. In Sex and Lucia it soon becomes clear (?!) that the events we are seeing may be a fabrication – a dramatisation of Lorenzo’s novel. Or, it could be that Lorenzo is writing a novel based on his experiences, which we are shown in flashback. In addition, of course, we are aware that we are watching a fictional film peopled by characters. Whether the film is simply an example of postmodern frippery or a profound statement about the human condition (or somewhere in between) is for the audience to decide:

Medem may have disrobed most of the cast, leaving their bodies exposed, but the plot remains as guarded as a virgin with a chastity belt. That’s why Sex and Lucía is so alluring. (Marta Barber Miami Herald, Friday, August 9, 2002 – http://www.rottentomatoes.com/click/movie-1115429/reviews.php?critic=columns&sortby=default&page=1&rid=753034)

Or:

“Sex and Lucia” is a beautifully made piece of unwatchable drivel. (Ian Waldron-Mantgani http://www.rottentomatoes.com/click/movie-1115429/reviews.php?critic=columns&sortby=default&page=1&rid=318987, accessed, October 2003)

Those who are unconvinced by the contrivance of narrative can, at least, enjoy the craftsmanship of the filmmaking and the performances of the cast. In addition pleasure can be gained from the film’s use of the  symbolic code:

•    The moon (the daughter is called Luna), representing female sexuality, is graphically matched (via editing) with a light (Lucia) and a pregnancy test
•    The phallic lighthouse is juxtaposed with a hole that both Lucia and Carlos/Antonio fall into (Lorenzo starts the film by telling Lucia he’s ‘in a hole’); this hole is also at the end of Lorenzo’s story where it takes us back to the middle of the narrative
•    Lucia’s orgasm is followed by Elena giving birth

The postmodern aesthetic is also present in the film’s form as Medem explains:

the movie was shot using CineAlta Hi-Definition 24p. It was incredible. This was the third movie in the world using this format. Since Lucia was escaping from a tragedy, she escapes that beautiful island that she steps on. And suddenly those characters have the right to do with that island whatever they want; for example, with the light. Also, when I went to the island with the camera, I forced the light. This overexposed light that almost blinds you, it’s like the characters erasing themselves and starting from zero, so they can start again. That’s the idea I had when I was shooting with my small camera when I first went to the island…

Every story, in a sense, is a search. You’re searching for the reason for that story to exist. There’s always a destiny. (http://www.indiewire.com/people/int_Medem_Julio_020711.html, accessed October 2003)

Although the film claims, at its conclusion, that stories can change halfway, this obviously isn’t the case with film. The elusiveness of the narrative virtually requires a second viewing but it may remain an enigma, or a chimera according to taste, even after close study.

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5 Responses

  1. alguein sabe, como es el nombre del tema que suena, en la disco, despues de la declaracion de lucia?

  2. […] protagonist, Elena Anaya (familiar from Sex and Lucia) is a beguiling presence and if there are a few plot holes (why did the police let everyone off the […]

  3. […] protagonist, Elena Anaya (familiar from Sex and Lucia) is a beguiling presence and if there are a few plot holes (why did the police let everyone off the […]

  4. […] in Britain, somewhat surprising as it written and directed by Julio Medem, whose films like Sex and Lucia and Lovers of the Arctic Circle (Spain-France, 1998) made some impact. Add the highly marketable […]

  5. […] Courtesy of: Flavorwire, Nick Lacey on Films, […]

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