Wednesday, August 11, 1999

The Loss of Sexual Innocence

Posted By on Wed, Aug 11, 1999 at 12:00 AM

A small boy looks into the eye of an ancient camera. An old man listens to a young girl read. The man is fully dressed. The girl is in her undergarments. The camera caresses her ankles, her legs, her inexperienced thighs. The boy is watching. Time stands still.

A boy, a girl, a funeral. Crowds, laughter, murmurs of the heart. Love and death. Songs of innocence and of experience. Wine, tears, urine and vomit: the splendid functions of the human body, the result of pain, love, disease. Fadeout.

A lake. Sounds of silence interrupted by rain. Circles of water, interminable skies, then nothing, just the silhouette of a man emerging from the bowels of the Garden of Eden. Fadeout. Adam. Fade-out. Eve. Black Adam and Nordic white Eve whose story bleeds into the story of Nic (Julian Sands), affecting its beginning – a little boy looking into the eye of the camera ... its middle and its inconceivable end. No order, no chronology: just the fury of the elements, the storm in Rome, the hypnotic sands of the Sahara.

"The crucial thing in cinema – or life, for that matter – is understatement," says musician-writer-director Mike Figgis (Leaving Las Vegas, Stormy Monday), faced with his most personal film to date, the result of 12 years of vicious script revisions and uncompromising stances.

A film by default – think of it as a two-hour-long canvas or a jazz sonata – beautiful beyond tolerance, The Loss of Sexual Innocence preys on the desperate restraint of its characters.

As awkward (civilized?) lovemaking scenes fade into Adam and Eve’s uncensored encounter, "the fall from grace" turns into a delicate affair, a private wound of sorts unwilling to heal inside the luminous dens of our – no longer innocent – bodies.

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