Pushing a couple's boundaries
by Alfonso Rivera
- In his fourth film, Xavier Villaverde does away with the orthodox limits to relationships, and widens his cinematic scope by depicting a young trio open about their sexuality.
Xavier Villaverde belongs to a generation of Spanish filmmakers who, back in the nineties often coolly and unashamedly focused on modernity, in all its aspects. His first film, Continental, received an enthusiastic response from the media, was nominated for a Goya, and made a name for the production company that he set up with Pancho Casal. Later, he alternated between advertising and two new films,Finisterre and Thirteen Chimes, his incursion into the terror genre.
In a versatile filmmaker, this new turn in his filmography - until now brief but intense, never ascribing to a single genre, current, or style - is no surprise. His new film is breath of youthful spirit, with all the good and bad, or naive, that this entails.
The Sex of Angels [+see also:
interview: Xavier Villaverde
film profile] tells of how Bruno (Llorenç González) and Carla (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey)'s couple is destabilised when the former meets Rai (Álvaro Cervantes), a young man who squats in abandoned house, dances in the street, and has an unconventional approach to his sexuality, a great seducer of sorts who soon becomes fascinated by the sporty, sensitive, and somewhat emotionally inarticulate Bruno. The latter's reluctance to enter Rai's game of seduction will soon expire, and they will live a secret passion that, in the beginning, excludes Carla. When she finally discovers that her guy has hooked up with another man, she is angry, then tries to understand, before ending up accepting that if you love someone you must above all want their happiness. Rai's character, a postmodern evolution of Terence Stamp in Teorema, who symbolises mystery, ambiguity and freedom, changes the course of a couple that nevertheless stays strong, transforming its sentimental and sexual dynamics, and thus pushing its previous boundaries.
This youthful naivety, idealist but not real or durable, is the main problem with this well-intentioned but, at certain moments, unbelievable film. This having been said, the characters do move about in the setting of modern Barcelona, a city famous for its tolerance and openness to novelty.
As a counterpoint, Carla's mother symbolises Spanish women brought up under the yoke of submission, male chauvinism, and self-denial, while her work colleagues bring a comical note to the conflict. But while the main trio shine in performances charged with emotion, with the purity of twenty-years-olds for whom emotional and sexual chemistry abounds, the secondary characters' performance sometimes seems unnatural.
Villaverde, with his screenwriter Ana Maroto, valiantly raises questions. What does love really mean? Is it finding your own happiness, or the happiness of the person you love? Is it acceptable to want to be with other people without breaking up the couple? Where does your freedom start and that of your partner end?
The Sex of Angels is about utopia: a love triangle in which no one feels left out. Without judging any character or moralising, it urges you to follow your heart without taboos. Its characters embrace this way of life, with sincerity and an open heart, like in a nice fairy tale.
(Translated from Spanish)