Gaspar Noe’s Love opens on an intimate sex scene. The couple is splayed on a bed, engaged in fervent foreplay. It is a single, long take of the two. They do not move. They do not speak. They just do. All the while, orchestral music rises and falls to the tempo of their rhythm.
We cut to the man, Murphy (Karl Glusman), waking, the soundtrack a voiceover narration lamenting his current life and the choices that got him there. He was high the night before. He is worried that his young son thinks that he smells. He doesn’t want to exist in this world.
The narrative then becomes fragments, pieces of a timeline that aren’t readily clear. In one timeline, Murphy has a wife and child in a plaster-white house. In the other, he is in a dark, neon-colored room littered with books and movie posters, likely a mise-en-scene choice to highlight influences of Noe himself: Taxi Driver, Salo, Freaks, M.
The movie transitions with hard cuts that make scenes feel like they are in the same temporal space when they are really on a bouncing timeline between past and present. Some cuts are like jump cuts, but they are ellipses. Other jump cuts are simply jump cuts. This makes for a jarring narrative that somehow is still smooth.
Murphy’s life is a shattered relationship. He loves Electra (Aomi Muyock), but he gets Omi (Klara Kristen) pregnant. As a result, he has a family that he resents. His instability is his obsession over Electra.
His love is an idyllic one. We see him fall in love with a woman who seemingly wants nothing with him besides sex. This instigates his move to France. So, how strong is the word “love” when he utters it to Electra? There is a superficiality to his moping, an apathy that stems from an almost juvenile need to get what he wants.
The film as a whole wallows in this superficial inner-monologue. It sinks in it. Then again, it is aware of its own stagnancy. The camera is, on the whole, static, cutting within and without as necessary, but never panning, rarely tracking. This doesn’t fix its superficial attempts at depth, but it gives the film a unique aesthetic.
The self-awareness extends beyond the third wall. It is almost as if the film is Noe himself trying to convince us that the film is valid as art. Murphy is an aspiring filmmaker wanting to make a film that melds the bare passions of love and sex. His son’s name is Gaspar. The mise-en-scene of his apartment could easily be Noe’s.
As far as the film turns to the audience and becomes art imitating life imitating art, it doesn’t break the fourth wall to any thematic end. There are no truly bold statements made in its meditations.
As great as its cinematic and mise-en-scene choices are, Love cannot reach to the level of its own aspirations. The pornographic yet art-house nature of its unsimulated sex may be enough for some, but all in all Noe’s film does not exceed its own premise. It spins its wheels around the complications of sex and love without truly breaking out into purpose.
New French Extremity has never failed to intrigue me, and the case is no different with Love. However, unlike my feelings of Noe’s earlier film Irreversible, I could not engage with anything other than the aesthetic of Love.
As always, thanks for reading!
Have you seen Love? If so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments!