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A huge, run-down apartment in Berlin Mitte. Two women and a man, rehearsals for a movie about love and sex, that will never be shot. Acting and reality mingle into a dangerous melange. Berlin is the shelter, love is impossible, flesh is the law.
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First of all, we have the ever so meta premise of being a movie about the making of a movie. The film opens with the sounds of a woman panting sexually as the opening credits roll. As the credits end, we flash to a close up of her face; she looks into the camera and says "come here" into a cell phone. This vague scene will be repeated at the end of the movie with all the details revealed, showing that it is not quite what you think. It is supposed to be a clever moment, but it comes across as the sexual equivalent of an M.Night Shymalan surprise ending.
We are immediately treated to an explicit scene of two people performing oral sex on each other, then flash to a title screen. I'll go ahead and address the explicit sex here. I'm not against the idea of two actors actually having sex. Done in the right way, it could be a powerful statement. However, this movie lacks subtlety, and it feels like the graphic moments are very in-your-face and unnecessary. Another issue I have is that they went to the lengths of making the actors have sex, but outside of some side penis, there is no actual penetration shown. The whole point of using real sex is the powerful symbolism and intimacy implied in penetration. Otherwise you could have just let them fake it.
From here we get thrown into the story as the director, Nina, discusses the film with her actor. "In that very moment you will fall in love with her, and she will fall in love with you, without you wanting it," she says, as the camera lingers on a close up of her blank stare for several seconds. Cue industrial music and more credits. Ham-fisted moments like this one litter the film, making it seem more like a student project at times.
Next we get another title screen, with huge red letters proclaiming (in German): The First Day. These screens pop up from time to time and seem over the top. You expect this sort of thing in a science fiction or horror film, or perhaps used more subtly in a mystery/drama. They are out of place in this slow paced exploration of sexuality. And as they count up the days, you can only think that the filmmakers must have thought their ending was going to be brilliant. In other places there are just intertitles saying things like "No."
For the next half hour or more, we watch as the Nina throws out ideas and does director things like having her actors lay perfectly still while she re-arranges their arms and legs in bed or reading them directions about facial expressions while sitting spread eagle in a chair in only a pair of thin panties. The chair is conveniently missing a back so that we get full view. She will later strip down in front of a mirror and briefly examine herself.
About midway through the film there is an extended scene with a closeup of the Nina's face as she drives in the rain. This is intercut with clips of the actors making out. It's another of those ham-fisted moments that are not all that original in the first place.
Then there is the big sex scene that the movie has been building up to. The sex is intercut with closeups of the Nina's face as industrial music plays and the lights go on and off behind her. Then we get another title screen - The Fifth Day - followed by an intertitle proclaiming, "Flesh is the Law" in English. It's all just too much, especially when followed by a scene of Nina showering and cutting her foot on a broken bottle. We are later treated to an awkward scene where the Marie, the actress, licks the blood from her foot for a good half a minute.
This is followed by a longer than necessary clip of a really terrible band playing while their singer does some strange interpretive dancing, all of which seems to take place in the same apartment. We soon get a strange sequence in which two characters exchange dialogue; filmed in shot-countershot, the scene changes locations each time it switches actors, so that one moment they are against a wall, and the next in front of a busy street, and so on.
There is an extended scene of explicit masturbation, followed by a long shot of an empty chair with the sounds of sex in the background. Right before the movie ends, we get a couple of minutes of nothing but Nina walking aimlessly. Then there's a quote from Michel Foucault about sex that is displayed on the screen. The last minute of the film is nothing but Nina lying in bed shining a bright light into the screen, followed by a final title screen. After closing credits, there is a long montage of random clips of the characters acting candidly while music plays. It finally, graciously ends with footage of that terrible band again.
This all takes place in a 74 minute movie. The extreme pretentiousness, wandering plot elements, and amateurish editing and directing make this a film I would recommend one to avoid. It is masturbatory material of the highest level, ranking dangerously close to Vincent Gallo's "look at me" effort, The Brown Bunny. Were it not for the brief scenes of explicit sex that generated publicity, I'm sure that no one would be talking about this film at all.