Review: Rule 34
- Brazilian filmmaker Júlia Murat's Golden Leopard winner stages the obsessive, simultaneously exhilarating and dangerous pursuit of pleasure as a political act
After audiences and critics alike discovered her with her first two feature films (Found Memories [+see also:
film profile], which premiered in Giornate degli autori in Venice 2011, and Pendular [+see also:
film profile], winner of the FIPRESCI prize at Berlinale's Panorama in 2017), Brazilian director Júlia Murat has won the Golden Leopard in the International Competition of the Locarno Film Festival with her third powerful work Rule 34 [+see also:
film profile] (a co-production between Brazil and France). Light years away from the clichés linked to a consensual or, even worse, sweetened and romanticised staging of sexuality ("female" in particular), Murat proposes that we follow the protagonist of her film through the dark recesses of her erotic fantasies, in search of a pleasure that is no longer only physical but also and above all political.
Simone (Sol Miranda) is a law student who fights to defend women in cases of domestic abuse. Although she conscientiously involves herself in defending this cause, in her private life Simone explores the limits of erotic urges linked to the universe of BDSM. To support herself, the film's protagonist exposes her body on Chaturbate, a porn site where she performs as a livecam-sex performer. Aware of her privileges as an educated and independent professional, Simone believes she can explore her sexuality without being held accountable to anyone, the master of a body she disposes of as she pleases. In spite of this, she does not forget (society constantly reminds her) what it means to be a black woman in Brazil, the vulnerability that this 'label' brings on a social and historical level.
Her new job as a legal consultant for an institution dealing with domestic violence allows her to confront the rawness of a society dominated by an abusive masculinity with catastrophic implications. The monstrosity of reality then clashes with the theories taught in class by professors who uphold an obviously unjust but nevertheless necessary legal system. Simone tries to reconcile, to unite 'against nature,' her idealistic dream of a better, fairer and more equitable society with the clinical rationality of a legal system detached from reality, privileged and brazen.
Torn between observing everyday gender violence and her own erotic desires, Simone is faced with a real existential dilemma. In a world radically different from that of university classrooms and accompanied at a distance by her friend Nat (Isabela Mariotto), the protagonist of Rule 34 begins to experiment with sexual practices linked to the BDSM universe. Accompanied in her nocturnal experiments by her friends-lovers Lucia (Lorena Comparato) and Coyote (Lucas Andrade), Simone seems unconcerned about the risks involved in practices in which reality and fantasy become dangerously confused.
The rationality required to embody her role as lawyer gradually seems to vanish, giving way to a Simone ready to do anything to explore urges she no longer wishes to keep under control. In this universe of instincts and violence, rules do not exist and everyone must decide how far to go, how close to come to a precipice that attracts like a magnet.
"What interests me today are the debates on gender, race and decolonialism stirred up by the black movement in Brazil, revealing an oppressive system that keeps us locked in," says Júlia Murat, and this is precisely what she does with her latest work Rule 34, in which sex becomes a weapon for liberation from a colonial and unjust patriarchal system that believes itself invincible. Sex is in this case decidedly political, an act that despite its radicality allows the protagonist to re-appropriate her body, to live instincts that society rejects and tends to categorise as 'abnormal.’
Rule 34 was produced by Brazilian companies Esquina Filmes and Bubbles Project, in co-production with French outfit Still Moving and Brazilian firm Imovision.
(Translated from Italian)
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