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A poor girl, a rich stud, a university student and a model -- nothing in common, except the desire to experience true intimacy. Their stories unfold and overlap as each becomes victim to their own sexual dependencies, self-perceptions and illusions. Thematically structured around issues of femininity, masculinity, virginity, rape and sexuality, each teen struggles to make sense of their own identity, reaching for ideals that represent everything they feel they are supposed to be, but are not.Written by
A Strong, Unsettling, and Above All Real Portrayal Of Humanity
In 'Sexual Dependency', writer/director Rodrigo Bellot delivers a stark, brutal and overwhelmingly honest portrayal of humanity as driven by their sexual urges, desires, and fears. Reduced to animals, the human condition is merely a thin veneer stretched tightly over millennia of instinct. However, the film is also about the ever-changing roles of people as determined by shifting environments and perspective, which Bellot drives home through the use of a fairly uncommon and at times disconcerting film technique.
So as to ensure the central message that sexual politics and animal group dynamics are fundamental to all, Bellot and fellow co-writer Lenelle N. Moise, rather than zooming in on one small cross-section of society as representative of all humanity, present a series of loosely-connected short stories populated with a number of different social groups. To really hammer the point home and ensure the viewer doesn't dismiss the unsettling narratives as simply the darker side of Bolivian culture, the action transfers halfway through to New York, where the same fundamentals of aggression are at work.
Another function of the anthology is to show a progression of both sexual awakening and the inevitable consequences of social groups led by dominant and aggressive leaders. Thus the first segment explores the difference between fantasy and reality as centred around a 15-year-old girl when the testosterone-filled vultures begin to circle. However, while male dominance and aggression are undeniably the driving force of all conflicts throughout 'Sexual Dependency', the young girl's unpressured curiosity and awakening sexual desires against the juggernaut of a young man whose hormones will brook no disagreement are thrown into sharp contrast with the unwitting young man forced into sexual adventure by his peers in the next segment. By the end of the film, the dominated males are no less numerous.
The third segment then shifts the focus from the weak to the sexual predator, exploring the ways in which they remain leader of the herd and how these acts impact those around them. Importantly, it also delves into the insecurity of that psyche, which plays an even greater role later on. It is here that the action relocates to New York, with one of the key Bolivian characters moving there and discovering both the true fragility of the world they have built up for themselves and that the law of the jungle is the only universal constant.
In this way, the cultural shift not only reinforces the argument that basic social behavior is the same everywhere, but also demonstrates that positions of dominance are entirely relative. Here, the hunter of one world may become the prey of another, though in a film set in two countries, cultural difference in and of itself becomes a contributing factor. Besides this, the New York half of 'Sexual Dependency' goes on to explore themes not already addressed earlier, such as homophobia, rape, and reinforcing heterosexual group dynamics north of the border. The overall progression from innocence to revelation and fall continues throughout and the final segments begin to blur together in a chaotic mess (carefully structured) so as to echo the crushing mental and physical pain brought on by fear, loathing, victimization, realization, and the fall from innocence.
Full credit must go to Bellot for choosing a cast who clearly understood what was being asked of them and performed it with absolute believability. I can't think of a single actor present who didn't deliver. The subtitles also were absolutely spot-on, with excellent use of equivalent English slang and colloquialisms to really ensure that cultural difference didn't distract from the underlying message. I was also quite impressed by the overall thematic progression and the way in which the way the film was edited together managed to match the escalating drama unfolding on screen, leading to a rich and layered experience as a result.
The most obvious example of this is the way the film itself was shot. Bellot experiments with the widescreen format to a degree not often seen before, by having two moving images at once. For the most part, this simultaneous imagery is of the same subject, with one camera filming from a different angle. However, one video is often a few seconds out of sync with the other, providing a sort of 'echoing' effect, which is most effectively used in a monologue segment later on. At other times, the two images may be entirely different, with one intended as a thematic contrast to the other, and by the time of the drama's chaotic climax-as-descent, the visual confusion rises to a crescendo. The overall success of this technique is varied, in some places proving quite effective, while at other times being quite disconcerting and overcomplicated and in some places, not especially necessary.
Another criticism I would make has to do with the murky breaking of the fourth wall that occurs toward the end of the film. Metatextuality is an art in its own right and often hard to pull off without being seemingly over-clever or gratuitous. Suffice to say, 'Sexual Dependency' is a title both of and within the film. It doesn't dampen the overall aim of the film, but it did make me feel a little cheated and emotionally 'exploited', although perhaps I simply didn't see what other viewers may regard as glaringly obvious.
The bleak nature and stark reality of the subject matter unapologetically makes for a rather uncomfortable and disturbing film at times. Two hours in the company of base human desire is certainly not an easy ride. It should cause the viewer to look at themselves and how they may fit into the social hierarchy. It bypasses our rational excuses for ourselves and holds the truth up to the mirror where we can't escape. While certain aspects of its presentation and narrative manipulation didn't always work for me, 'Sexual Dependency' is a powerful, thought-provoking work of cinema and a sobering commentary on this most fundamental part of the human animal.
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