"Do you know what the human body goes through when you have sex? Pupils dilate, arteries constrict, core temperature rises, heart races, blood pressure skyrockets, respiration becomes rapid and shallow, the brain fires bursts of electrical impulses from nowhere to nowhere, and secretions spit out of every gland, and the muscles tense and spasm like you're lifting three times your body weight. It's violent. It's ugly. And it's messy. And if God hadn't made it *unbelievably* fun, the human race would have died out eons ago."
-- Allison Cameron, House M.D.
Sex in movies is just about the opposite to sex in real life. Like most things Hollywood sinks its hooks into, sex became romanticized somewhere along the way and now acts as a segue between passionate loathing and unyielding love and to an extent, the studios point of view can be likened to that of a sex starved teenager: The anticipation of a sexual confrontation is the fuel behind a movie/relationship and when the act finally occurs, not only does it never live up to expectations, it is in its own way kind of ugly. Ugly in real life because your preconceptions of what sex would be are shattered and replaced by a reality that is far less engaging. Ugly in the movies because the climax of the movie is anything but, and the very notion of sexual activity being something that binds to people together ultimately seems lost, thereby rendering the whole movie insincere at best or completely pointless at worst.
Off the top of my head, I can think of only 4 sex scenes which had any sort of lasting impact on me, which are in the following films:
- A Clockwork Orange (1971)
- Irreversible (2002)
- The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
- Trainspotting (1996)
It's somewhat telling that two of these are rape scenes. Let's start from the top.
Sex Scene One: A Clockwork Orange (1971)
A Clockwork Orange is one of Stanley Kubrick's finest movies, but also one of his most controversial. The clear depiction of sex and the brutal exposition of violence and
the distinct combination of the two proved so haunting that the film was banned in Britain for 27 years, a move supported by Kubrick himself after concerns of copycat attacks. Based on the novel by Anthony Burgess, the film pulls no punches when portraying 'Ultra-Violence', especially when it comes to the infamous rape scene. During this scene, the anti-hero Alex (played by Malcolm McDowell) beats an author in his own home before proceeding to rape the authors wife all whilst howling the song 'Singin' in the Rain', assisted by his fellow Droogs. The power behind the scene is split in equal parts by the ferocity of the writing and McDowell's performance. The scene itself as written is horrendous in a manner so inspired that I can't help believe it to be based on true event, or else I would worry about the psychological well being of the man who wrote it. McDowell does a remarkably distasteful job of delivering the sheer delight Alex gets from the act. It's this performance that allows the scene to transcend a gritty exploitative feel and truly act as a reminder of how unforgivable a rape can be. They say that in the mind of a rapist, it's the violence that acts as a turn on...To Alex, it seems like every aspect of his actions are contributing.
Sex Scene Two: Irréversible (2002)
If you've never seen Irréversible I can't fault you. It's among the most difficult films out there to watch, right from the beginning. The violence in the movie is so disturbing that the only way the opening scenes could pass any sort of censor was to have a constantly swirling camera in near complete darkness. Director Gaspar Noé and company even went to the liberty of including a low frequency sound during the first 20 minutes or so to make the film even more disorientating and stomach churning. This sound is used during an intense nine-minute rape scene which is quite frankly the most realistic staged sexual assault committed to film. The tension leading up to the scene genuinely pollutes the viewing environment with dread and curiously enough, it's not the violence in the rape that sells it (although that does play it's own part). The reason it's so difficult to sit through is that it lasts so long. Nine minutes of pure release as Jo Prestia anally rapes Monica Belluci in a public pedestrian underpass and smashes her face into the concrete pavement. Noé makes a conscious decision to focus on Belluci's face throughout the whole ordeal and in a way, the whole thing is seen from her perspective. Every blow that Prestia lands is deafening and as an actual rape victim might mention it just goes on and on. One of the first lines of Irréversible is "Time destroys everything." That certainly seems to be the case here.
Sex Scene Three: The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
It's curious how much of an impact the sex scene from The Matrix Reloaded had on me. Many consider this scene terrible, unintentionally hilarious or even unnecessary. I
however think it's entirely suitable in the context of the story. During an intense celebration in the human camp of Zion, Trinity and Neo (played by Carrie Ann-Moss & Keanu Reeves) sneak off to consummate their love. I find that the editing is what sets this particular scene apart from many others as the cutting between an energetic rave and the movement of the two bodies seem to work in perfect synergy. The ugliness of the motion is strengthened by the plug sockets that covers the two bodies, and in a way this slight visual flair seems to further the prolonged implication that the bodies in question are just machines in their own biological way. They may as well be recharging...or discharging as the case may be.
Sex Scene Four: Trainspotting (1996)
Renton and Diane
Perhaps the closest a film has ever gotten to natural passionate sex, Trainspotting follows it's own rules and has no problem shocking anybody who doesn't keep up with a harsh dose of reality. Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) is a heroin addict who does what most junkies do when they're not shooting up: he goes clubbing. Whilst doing so, he meets a sexy petite girl called Diane (Kelly Macdonald) who sees right through his pathetic attempts at conversation but takes him home anyway. Upon arrival the two engage in what can best be described as a pounding of bodies against each other, lasting only a few moments until their game is over...almost literally as Renton likens his orgasm to a victorious football match he remembers having watched years prior. The sex is entirely consensual and slightly bland but the rampant energy and sheer honesty of the situation is enough to set Trainspotting apart from most scenes of a similar nature. The overwhelming feeling isn't of two people who have fallen madly in love but of two people who have just shared a biological function which both enjoyed. Their relationship is certainly not immediately portrayed as one of love either, as Diane turns out to be an underaged schoolgirl who ends up blackmailing Renton to keep seeing her, lest she contact the police. Trainspotting certainly follows it's own rules and this is truly to it's advantage.
I'm sure I've missed some fantastic sex scene out. Let me know which are as impressive as these if not more so*!
Thanks for reading,
*-If you guys send me links to porn, I shall not be a happy bunny.