Sunday, May 4, 2008
100 Days, 100 Movies: Sex and Lucia (2001)
Director: Julio Medem
Starring: Paz Vega, Tristan Ulloa, Najwa Nimri
"The first advantage is at the end of the story. It doesn't finish, it falls in a hole, and the story starts again halfway. The other advantage, and the biggest, is that you can change course along the way." Sex and Lucia is a movie that isn’t really about sex, nor is it about Lucia (Paz Vega). Rather, it is about the impact that both make on the life of a writer named Lorenzo (Tristan Ulloa). This is not a story that is easily explained. It travels back and forth in time, between reality and the novel that Lorenzo is writing, which may or may not be based on things that have or are happening to him. There are several instances when the film “falls in a hole” and takes us right back to where we started (or, rather, to where we think we started).
It begins with Lucia receiving a phone call, misunderstanding it and thinking that Lorenzo is dead. She runs away to an island he told her about, where he once spent a birthday. She wanders along the beach and falls in a hole. The next thing we see is how Lorenzo spent that fateful birthday: having sex on the beach with Elena (Najwa Nimri). They agree not to exchange names. "It's more romantic that way," Elena says. They go their separate ways and Elena finds out that she’s pregnant. Knowing that Lorenzo lives in Madrid – this small piece of information is all that she knows about him – she goes there in the hope of finding him. She has the baby, a girl, but her path never crosses with that of Lorenzo again.
Meanwhile, Lorenzo has written and published a book and meets Lucia, who has been stalking him, having recognized him as the author of her favourite novel. “I’m not a crazy person,” she insists, explaining to him how moved she was by his book. She then informs him that she loves him and that she’s sure he’ll come to love her, too. He decides, then and there, that he does. “Let’s get drunk and celebrate,” he suggests.
Years pass, Lorenzo and Lucia are living together and he’s still trying to write his next book. A friend of his has found out about the little girl and tells Lorenzo, also telling him about where he might go in order to catch a glimpse of her. Lorenzo goes to the park where his daughter plays in order to see her and begins a relationship with her babysitter. The tragedy that this relationship brings about I will not reveal, but I will say that it drives Elena - who doesn't know about Lorenzo's part in it - out of Madrid and back to the island, where she eventually meets Lucia. Neither woman knows about the other's history with Lorenzo, and unbeknownst to either, Elena has been chatting with Lorenzo online. He's written a story for her, the one that “doesn’t finish.” Does he know to whom he's writing? It seems that he does. But, then again, is this actually happening, or is this what's happening in his book? The intriguing question about this movie is how much, exactly, are we supposed to take as "real" and how much are we supposed to consider as being part of Lorenzo's novel?
The relationship with the babysitter, for example. She lives with her mother, a former porn actress, and her mother's boyfriend. She has a crush on the boyfriend and one night she sees him watching her masturbate. The shot cuts away and when it cuts back, it's Lorenzo, not the boyfriend, watching her. Later, Lorenzo writes a scene involving the boyfriend waking up to find both women dead. Again, Lorenzo places himself in the boyfriend’s position, and we look through his own eyes at the two dead women. On the island, Elena finds out that the babysitter and her mother are missing and so is the mother's boyfriend. The photo of the man closely resembles Carlos, a diver who has been staying with Elena and Lucia and to whom both women find themselves drawn. Can we take this as "proof" that the island scenes are in Lorenzo's head?
Sex and Lucia is a funny, occasionally gratuitous (okay, frequently gratuitous), often maddening film with a wealth of possible explanations. It is possible that nothing in the film, outside of Lorenzo's relationship with Lucia, is real. The film ends having fallen through a "hole," with Lorenzo and Lucia happily together in Madrid. We catch a brief glimpse and Elena and her daughter. Could everything that came before be fiction? Of course. But it could also be that Lucia went to the island, literally fell in the hole, and is hallucinating the whole story in order to give herself and Lorenzo a happy ending. It could also be that Lorenzo, who gets in a car accident at the beginning of the film (which would put it at the end of the narrative, chronologically speaking) and falls into a coma, is dreaming all of this. Not being able to say for sure is part of the infinite charm of this wonderful film.