Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Fat Girl (Catherine Breillat)


Adolescent sexuality. It's a theme too sensitive and downright naive to really expose in such a raw, disturbing and depressing light. Yet that's actually what director Catherine Breillat has done in "Fat Girl": A thorough exploration of early sexual awakening, abstract sibling relationships and artificial promiscuity that ultimately leads into disintegration.

I really think that with a more light-handed filmmaker, the theme could have been made and executed as a bittersweet tale of gullible love seen through the eyes of a fertile and curious girl. But given that a sensible approach to the issues tackled by the film is much more preferable, "Fat Girl" neglected all of these and instead hovered around its characters with detached apathy. And putting an ambiguous, fantasizing, ennui-stricken female character in its center both as an observant and observed does not just complicate the matter, it also puts the film into a critical extremity.

Call it depressing, call it exploitative, but by all means, "Fat Girl" delivered what it has intended to, and also puts into exposition and emphasis those that should have been otherwise. And just like Gaspar Noe's works, the film has displayed uncommon bravery.

The film is chiefly about the relationship between 15-year-old Elena (Roxane Mesquida) and her sister Anais (Anais Reboux in a very daring performance). The opening scene, after we heard Anais' haunting song and saw her dead set stare, we are introduced to the relational condition of the siblings. We hear the words 'fat slob' and 'loose morals' hurled at each other devoid of any verbal emotions. They walk shoulder to shoulder through the woods and into the streets but they're of the opposite looks and mindsets.

Anais, an overweight girl, states that first-time sex should be with anybody, while Elena, a beautiful 'Lolita-like' teenager, suggests the generalized importance and pleasures of 'sleeping' around with many. It's a conversation captured with such normality and spontaneity that it makes it more disquieting.

How did such girls at a tender age know too much and very opinionated about things they shouldn't be hearing about in the first place? Catherine Breillat brings us into an alternate reality of France where it's not all about the elegance of love and romance, but a washed-out place (both in color and moral fiber) where the idea of sex is messy and sudden while the concept of virginity is not about its preservation but to whom it must be lost and why.

"Fat Girl" also delves into sexuality to which physical carnality is endlessly fantasized while the context of true love contained within it is superficial at best. As I hear the narcissistic Fernando's (Libero De Rienzo) promises to Elena as he fondles her virginal body, it sickens me. Through that specific sequence, Breillat also gives out a statement about how sweetened, unfulfilled pledges is an easy way 'in' into cheap romances and also the easiest way out.

Yet the essence of the sisters' relationship does not start and end on sexual commentaries. We are also compelled to notice the sisters' 'love-hate' connection. One sequence, we see them throw dry insults at each other as if they have a scorned relational void rotten by time. But in the next, they suddenly hug each other. Insult, hate, laugh, laugh, hate, insult.

It's their cycle, but is there an absolute? What is the true weather of their bond? "Fat Girl" presented it with such disfigured profundity (highlighted by how Elena and Anais recalled their childhood
and how they compare themselves in front of a mirror) that it seems futile to look deep enough and as if both of them locked up the answers and covered it up with their one-bit fantasies.

Graphic and at times, emotionally disorienting, this is the antithesis to shallow teenage films talking about 'cute guys' and 'first dates', "Fat Girl" rests upon a dark truth within adolescent existence; 'truth' which do not just come like a gentle revelation, but one bent on shattering the windshields of escapism to present us with certain uncomfortable notions, but those that are ultimately in touch with reality.

The film is widely known to have a very 'controversial' and 'shocking' ending. I do not like hype, but "Fat Girl's" final sequence lives up to its notoriety. Quite ironic considering that it's about victory.


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