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Michael MacLennan

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What to Do When an Acclaimed Film Director Normalises and Romanticises Rape?

Posted: 14/05/2013 16:38

So, Pedro Almodóvar's latest film I'm So Excited, which is out now in UK cinemas.

I went in expecting to be underwhelmed, given that the reviews hadn't been glowing, but instead left furious at one of its main plot threads. To explain why, I think it best to reverse the flip gender of the characters involved, and go into some detail about the plot. (So beware spoilers.)

Imagine that you have just moseyed along to a screening of the latest work by one of the world's most acclaimed filmmakers.

It turns out to be an oddly weighted, camp comedy-drama set almost entirely upon a plane. Its plot sees one male - who proclaims himself to have psychic abilities - somehow gain access to the cockpit and tell the pilots that he has foreseen he will lose his virginity on the journey.

At the same time this individual, let's call him Guy X, has spotted an extremely attractive female who appears to be sexually aroused back in the economy class. Oh, and she has been drugged unconscious.

Guy X is curious by this development, lingering as he takes a look at her. Later on, as disaster strikes the plane - which seems set to crash-land - a number of its occupants decide to join the mile-high club before they potentially meet their maker.

As they do so, a cheerful soundtrack accompanies their exertions. At this same moment Guy X spots that same horny, sexy, female passenger over in yonder cheap seats. Seizing the opportunity, he unbuttons her trousers, pulls down her pants, and has sex with the unconscious lady.

The camera then stays on them while he's in the throes of passion, her complete unaware of what's happening, never having even said hello to him before.

Don't fret though, for at the end of the film the plane turns out to be saved!

And, as everyone gets off the plane at landing, Guy X and "that girl he had unconscious sex with" are arm in arm! Turns out, she feels like she has some sort of strange bond with him that she just can't explain!!!

Well, all's well that ends well, and...

Actually, no. No, it's not fucking okay. And the fact that - with the reversal I talked about earlier - it is actually a female character raping a male character should not make it any more palatable. (Not sure that this is supposed to make it okay, but towards the end of the sustained sexual assault he appears to wake and not stop it continuing - though again, he is heavily medicated.)

With this in mind, it would be nice for film critics to have condemned the film - surely they would have spotted how repugnant the whole palaver is? But so far I'm So Excited has 62% on Rotten Tomatoes - not great, but not exactly a damning indictment either - with one review stating that: "it is on the surface a camp, frothy piece of fun, arguably indulgent and occasionally misjudged in its casual depictions of sex, but ultimately won out by Almodóvar's incessant love of tall stories".

Well, thank goodness for that love of tall stories.

But really, occasionally misjudged? One of its most sympathetically viewed characters rapes another lesser character, is entirely forgiven for it by the end, and it's "misjudged"? I wonder if such a plotline could ever have been pardoned by a lesser filmmaker on his/her way up, rather than an acclaimed filmmaker given free reign to concoct such vile nonsense.

I doubt it. Instead it seems like a variety of absolute idiots are falling over themselves to still pay respect to somebody they think a genius of his craft, and it's sickening to see.

Perhaps - to try and give this whole shambles some sort of reasoning - it was thought that an acclaimed filmmaker such as Almodóvar must have had some greater intention. But what would it be? What on earth was he discussing with this throwaway moment of serious sexual assault? Or, for that matter, what was with the dubious rape scene in his previous film The Skin I Live In, or with the almost sympathetic approach to rape seen in the Oscar-nominated Talk To Her?

I won't even seek to answer that - I just hope that, by asking the question, people might wonder why I'm So Excited is showing in mainstream UK cinemas and propagating the myths that rape is alright if it's a female having sex with an unconscious male, or that it's okay if you're unaware of the fact that you've been raped and then fall in love with your attacker, or whatever. And also that nobody seems to even be discussing it. Because seriously, what is that about?

 

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