It is often pointed out that sex sells. But what exactly does it sell? Perhaps it’s time to shake the status quo and attach the diverse, awkward nuances to it, as suggested by the young Latvian film director Liene Linde with Seven Awkward Sex Scenes. Part One –a courageous and straightforward short film that offers insight to the lives of contemporary women, and employs humour and melancholy in contrast to the glossy and steamy sex scenes typical of Hollywood. Amidst the Karlovy Vary festival buzz, we caught up with Linde who told us about her ideas behind the film. Linde might come across as modest at first glance, but she certainly doesn’t shy away from provocative subjects.
The film begins at the pitch meeting where you defend your ideas in front of the movie executives. Are you personally familiar with the kind of attitude displayed there?
Liene Linde: Partly it was my commentary about how not only me but lots of filmmakers feel like when you’re working on a project, it usually takes years, because all you have to do is keep defending your idea in the pitching sessions and sell the film before it’s even done. In a way, you have to lie to make a good impression and it takes away the creativity. That’s why my film ends with the phrase „I don’t know“. We never know what will happen. It’s all about how we market ourselves and I don’t think it’s entirely correct that the system is so established on pre-selling your idea to get funded. Where is the trust to the artist?
You’re saying that the artist should have the freedom to take risks with their projects.
LL: Yes, exactly.
Was your film also a take on feminist issues through your eyes as a female filmmaker?
LL: It wasn’t my calculated intention to make a feminist film, but in the end, it is because of how I see life. Well, I don’t get less funded because I’m a woman – I haven’t experienced that in Latvia –, but it was crucial for me that the whole topic was handled from women’s perspective. This is what I feel lacked in the films I have seen. It’s also how we show and talk about sex. I find it very conventional. Conventional framing and conventional ways we put it into the narrative. All these codes, not showing breasts. It leaves you in a very dry and boring place when you show sex on screen. I wanted to depict it more as I experience it and how I think everybody experiences it. It’s quite different of what we see on film.
Your themes are borderline taboo. Not only hyper-natural sex shown from female perspective but periods, for example, are not commonly publicly discussed. How was the feedback?
LL: I think the best commentary was from one film industry representative in Latvia, who said that seeing the film made him realise how he employs misogynistic male gaze regularly. It was a big compliment and the feedback has been very positive in that sense.
Is the feedback different when it comes to men and women?
LL: Well, no. I have heard many compliments from men. Lots of people have been coming up to me and telling about their own personal awkward sexual experiences. Actually, guys do it even more. There have been several gay guys who have told me: you did this now, but please talk about how we feel! Also, here are our awkward sex scenes. We can tell you everything!
Was it difficult to find young actors willing to expose themselves physically and mentally in these roles?
LL: Surprisingly, no. I already have some sort of an established reputation in the artistic circles in Latvia, so the actors know me and they just trusted me. There weren’t any discussions of whether they should do this or that. They kind of just undressed.
Were you always determined to play the director’s part yourself?
LL: In the very first original idea I wanted to play the sex scenes myself, but when I tested myself in the teaser, I realised it was very difficult and I need a professional actor to do that. I wanted to try myself out as an actress and so the narrative of the film was born.
I watched many other films that deploy meta narrative, a film within a film. I was greatly influenced by François Truffaut’s Day for Night (1973) and Fellini’s 8½ (1963). I noticed some lightness in how film directors talk about themselves, self-irony.
Is there anything important you’d like to emphasize personally about the film, that isn’t referred to enough?
LL: I don’t know if this point comes through, but I use a lot of humour in my works because I think that while life is very funny, it’s also quite sad. If we look deeper into the storylines about these sex scenes, the background of the director of the film, it’s actually all quite sad. I have got comments that it has been a good laugh, but it’s actually a sad film. All these relationships the girls have with guys are broken in a way.
Your film is named Seven Awkward Sex Scenes. Part One. Is there a part two coming out?
LL: I’m working on it, yes!
Interview with Liene Linde
Director of "Seven Awkward Sex Scenes. Part One" (LV)
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C. Photo Credit: Seven Awkward Sex Scenes. Part One (2016)
Name: Nele Volbruck