Touch Me Not is a docudrama whose principal theme is (sexual) intimacy, how it can be attained and maintained, and how often it ultimately eludes us. By tracing the lives of several key personae, including that of Putilie herself, the film aims to offer insight into each of its protagonists’ emotional difficulties.
The film pivots around Laura (Laura Benson), a British woman crippled with anger and repressed sexual trauma related to her father. She is dominated by voyeuristic tendencies, and, in stark contrast to the nameless exhibitionist who she invites to her flat in the crude first scene, she is awkward and painfully self-aware. Sadly, not one of these issues is explored in any thought-provoking way.
Rather, Laura’s preoccupations with self-liberation are deeply rooted in her fascination with disability as well as her interest in other ‘non-conventional’ life experiences. She invites transsexual sex worker and therapist Hanna (Hanna Hoffman) to help her – Hanna does so through an unsettling combination of conversation, strip-tease and Brahms – alongside sex worker Seani Love, who physically punches Laura to elicit a reaction. These gratuitous attempts to break down Laura’s barriers only serve to create more walls between the film and the viewer.
Throughout these prolonged interview-cum-therapy scenes that supposedly aim to blur fiction and reality, but fall flat in their attempt to do so, Pintilie intersperses the stories of Christian (Christian Bayerlein) and Tudor (Tómas Lemarquis).
Both suffer from different physical deformities: Christian has spinal muscular atrophy, while alopecia has left Tudor completely hairless. The two are partners in a yoga workshop, where a poignant scene has Tudor explore Christian’s face with his hands, as, once again, Laura looks on.
The closeness between the pair thus becomes a voyeuristic ritual, in which the ability of those bearing disabilities to feel intimacy is fetishised before the viewer. This fetishisation is only exemplified when Tudor witnesses Christian with his partner Grit in a sex club; little is left to the viewer’s imagination, recalling Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac.
Dragging sections of tedious dialogue aside, what makes Touch Me Not so problematic is its central message: even this man who can barely control his body is able to be intimate with another; even a transsexual is comfortable in her skin; even the pursuers of violent BDSM can find pleasure with others – so why can’t a run-of-the-mill woman such as Laura?
Touch Me Not’s success at the Berlinale 2018 is a result that surely undermines the prestigious nature of this accolade.
This film was reviewed at the Berlinale 2018. Official UK release dates have not yet been announced.
|What||Touch Me Not film review|
|Price||£determined by cinema|
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