Film: Double Bill

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The Independent Culture
DENIS VILLENEUVE, DIRECTOR OF `AUGUST 32ND ON EARTH' , RELEASED TODAY, ON HIS IDEAL CINEMATIC PAIRING

A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE (JOHN CASSAVETES, 1974)

BREAKING THE WAVES (LARS VON TRIER, 1996)

THESE TWO films share an idea of truth, but a very different way of seeking emotion, of understanding complicity. Both use documentary-style camera work. Yet, in A Woman Under the Influence it was necessary; Cassavetes used the medium as a money-saving device, shooting with the fag-ends of show reels and still needing to borrow from friends. Lars Von Trier contrived the documentary effect and built studios with 360-degree scenery to create the illusion of reality.

The main characters in each film are women who portray social dysfunction. We end up feeling their discomfort with people, and that truth must then be looked for in nature, not knowledge. Von Trier's woman is very pure, Cassavetes's is like a child, yet they are highly sexual. To some, these women are sick; not to their husbands. Both films are refreshingly devoid of a sexuality common in film, when it is evil, perverted and sick.

There is no fight with goodness. Perhaps the only conflict is that the women love too much. It is dangerous to make a film about love; it's like falling in love yourself - you can be very stupid and do silly things, which you think are great. Love can make you lose your reference. These are masterpieces in depicting love. They aren't films about falling in love, the usual picture; instead they show what comes after.

In A Woman Under the Influence there is a beautiful scene: Gena Rowlands and Peter Falk are making the sofa bed and communicate through small gestures - a relationship beyond words. It's the key to survival. Lars Von Trier's woman gazes at the naked body of a man for the first time, and Trier captures the original gaze - the goal of every film.

The director Wim Wenders once said: "A very good film gives the energy to live, play ball and be happy to be alive." If I saw these films together, I would certainly know there is truth in those words, and be happy and reconciled with man for a moment.

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