“I’m going to starve to death in your bed”
April Mullen’s Canadian erotic romance Below Her Mouth (2016) is known for its all-female ensemble, with the film being written, directed and produced by women. In an interview with The GATE, Natalie Krill gave an insight into how this impacted the film’s sex scenes, highlighting the comfort and ease she was able to emanate on-set as a result. This is certainly reflected in the general aura of the film. The level of authenticity that flows from the screen successfully steers us away from the male gaze, which might overlook the emotional thread of the story by glancing furtively at its surface-level eroticism.
Commitment-averse Dallas (Erika Linder) finds her head spinning when she meets Jasmine (Natalie Krill), whose heart and mind seem to belong to her fiancé, Rile (Sebastian Pigott). The two finds themselves magnetised to each other, with Dallas pulling and Jasmine pushing in a breathless struggle to postpone the inevitable. When Rile leaves town for the weekend, temptation seeps into Jasmine’s world, whispering promises of the things her heart was denied once by her homophobic mother. It takes a piercing look and a searing kiss from Dallas to ignite the passion Jasmine has been suppressing, but how long can she float in the limbo between reality and fantasy?
Maya Bankovic’s cinematography is nothing short of dazzling. She plays with hot red and shivering sapphire undertones, massaging hair-raising sensuality into the film. We can almost feel the shattering breaths before they fall from one gasping mouth to the other, each exhale donning a colourful glow that splits the complexity of the women’s emotions like an optical prism. This, combined with the hand-held, raw and intrusive takes, bleeds into the swirling art of seduction that is both seized and strangled in Below Her Mouth.
It’s rare for a film to tap into senses the same way it aims to stimulate the brain, and Below Her Mouth is sadly no exception. It could easily be perceived as porn with a minimal dose of plot, but therein lies its essence, which is something that the film’s dreamy ambiance has the hard task of conveying. It’s aided by NOIA’s music, but dragged down ruthlessly by the stilted dialogue. Its brusque lack of imagination and character development can be forgiven, however. After all, Below Her Mouth captures a frenzied, salacious love affair. Unlike a steady relationship, it experiences its birth and adolescence in the span of two days. Interestingly, the main character seems to be body language itself, preening with every angle, twist and shove. It shivers below a keen eye, and its dominance over the senses is indisputable.
On a backdrop of splashed lust and foggy breaths, our ears succumb to dreamy voiceovers that add an air of otherwordliness to the women’s euphoric affair. This teachnique is cleverly used in the film, never too jarring in its soft caress to pull us away from the enthralling visuals. This intangible quality points quite clearly to the film being an ode to the female orgasm, not constricted physically or psychologically by social constructs.
These are important to note, as their existence crops up on numerous occasions. Nevertheless, all obstacles seem to grow faint and wither where uninhibited emotions are concerned. We learn that parents are often the greatest and most crippling hurdle in a person’s path to self-acceptance and, by extension, happiness. The tragedy of this statement drowns watery kisses in sadness, which happens to be the women’s greatest aphrodisiac.
This is also where Natalie Krill truly shines. Her character’s discomfort, always morphing but never absent, is exceptionally well-played. The tragedy of the desires she has been conditioned to fear is at odds with the gasping ecstasy brought on by the freedom she reaches out for. And with very little dialogue to fall back on, her body seems fluent in emotive expression.
The theme of the film is hardly original, as is what might appear as another standard over-sexualisation of a lesbian pairing, but Below Her Mouth never masks its intent – to present a visual exploration of the rapture we seek.
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