Hide and Seek: An intimate utopia
by David González
- English filmmaker Joanna Coates delves into the possibilities of tearing down the conventionalisms of love in an indulgent cinematic oasis
The feature debut by English filmmaker Joanna Coates raises a number of questions. Is it possible to love more than one person? Is leading a life devoted to this actually viable? Is the utopia of everlasting and ever-changing romance the answer to people’s emotional insecurities? Approaching questions such as these only slightly, as if to caress them, Hide and Seek [+see also:
film profile] presents a light but captivating look at the possibility of an island. The movie, which triumphed recently at the Edinburgh Festival (read the news), is currently being screened at the Crossing Europe Festival in the Austrian city of Linz.
Four youngsters (two boys and two girls) decide to leave London behind in order to move into a house in the middle of the wilderness that is the English countryside. In the rear-view mirror they see not only London, but also the entire framework of social conventionalisms that shackles all of us who make up part of that so-called society. Leah (Rea Mole), Max (Josh O'Connor), Charlotte (Hannah Arterton) and Jack (Daniel Metz, who also shared the scriptwriting duties and produced the film), who were not necessarily best friends prior to this, decide to strike up a four-party relationship: first of all setting up a calendar to share the main bedroom, and then letting themselves get carried away with the touch and the scent of the person beside them. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a woman or a man – the contact is always the same: a liberated frenzy of intimacy and tenderness that has little to do with the popular imagination of unbridled free love in a society that has practically demonised it throughout history. Nevertheless, the film by no means intends to preach ex cathedra about the morality both of what it seems to support and what it seems to condemn (the intolerance that always surrounds those situations, embodied here by Charlotte’s ex-boyfriend and his surprise visit). Coates prefers to let the bodies feel, quiver and become intertwined, and she does this by shooting them in extreme close-up, turning her camera into another one of their limbs.
What the movie offers also oozes a certain essence of artistic performance, not just through the games and the shows that the four protagonists invent to while away the days, but also through its nature of being an isolated experiment, a utopia on the level of the plot (almost) as much as it is on the narrative level. Gently shut away inside itself, Hide and Seek does not offer a real counterpoint to its plot, something that, in the words of its creators, attempts to avoid the cinematic cliché thanks to which all utopias on film wind up (very) badly, but which can consequently end up veering into self-indulgent territory. Be that as it may, Coates’ film, produced by Metz for Show Business Film, offers an interesting experience, an immersion in a new form of love without borders, right from the very heart of that love, from beat to beat.
(Translated from Spanish)