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November 11, 2015

Denver Film Festival: Nude Area

nude area poster.jpg

Strefa nagosci
Urszula Antoniak - 2014
Topkapi Films

Filmed in Amsterdam, this is a mostly dialogue free film about two young women, and their encounters with each other, real and imagined. Those who demand clearly explained narratives will probably be frustrated here. Antoniak starts off with a quote from Roland Barthes' "A Lover's Discourse". There may be some irony at work here as Barthes discusses his idea of love in part from a male point of view, and much of what he writes about is language.

While the two young woman, played respectively by the Dutch Sammy Boonstra, and the Moroccan Imaan Hamman, do not speak to each other, except for a brief moment of unintelligible whispers, they communicate with each other with glances, body language, and eventually, touching. Antoniak might be a bit arch in giving several of the segments written titles, such as "Love", "Listless", and "Labour", all taken from Barthes. The scenes between the two women alternate between possible realities and dreams, briefly addressing race and class.

The opening images are certainly dreamlike. Water against the leg of a woman falls down like some many crystals. In slow motion and close up, the water looks like waves washing against the woman's skin. The two women see each other in a spa, later in an outdoor cafe. A letter with a heart shaped seal is received. An email letter is composed. Sometimes the idea of a relationship, or the dream of a relationship, is better than the reality of two people coming together.

One painterly image is of Sammy at a park. There are some couples, plus a trio in the back, a playful nod to Renoir's Picnic on the Grass. They look at Sammy, the only single person present, as if she was some kind of intruder. Nude Area is about spaces, both private and public, as well as how people may give a meaning to a space, be it the aforementioned park, or a table in an exclusive restaurant.

There is very little nudity in Nude Area, and what exists can not be considered exploitive. The film might be understood as a contemplation of mostly unexpressed longings between the two women. What takes place may be subject to individual interpretation by the viewer. What gives the film its power is not only the play between the two actresses, but the imagery by Piotr Sobocinski, Jr. Shots of faces reflected on glass, close-ups of Boonstra's fingers with black polish, the pause to study how Hamman wraps her headscarf are part of the story here. Appropriating the title of Barthes' collection of essays, the viewer should surrender to the pleasures of the cinematic text.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at November 11, 2015 03:23 PM