Marie (Caroline Ducey) is very much in love with her boyfriend Paul (Sagamore Stévenin), but Paul doesn’t want to have sex with her. Her increasing sexual frustration leads her to encounters with other men – be it Robert (François Berléand) who work in the school she works at, or Paolo (Rocco Siffredi) who she picks up in a bar. All the while Marie still tries to keep her relationship with Paul alive.
Romance is an interesting film that provokes discussion about sex, relationships and power. Though I found myself disagreeing with a lot of the conclusions it seems to draw, I enjoyed the thought experiments that come with watching it.
Romance is all about power and power games that take place in conjunction with sex. Paul gets his power over Marie by refusing to have sex with her. With Robert, Marie has SM sex and thus the power play is quite explicit. And Marie tries to assert her own power and independence by cheating on Paul. But most of the time the power lies with the men. That’s probably a very realisitc take on sex in a patriarchal society. What Romance seems to suggest is that women have to become active participants in that power dynamic.
Which is a good first step in my eyes, but what I want to see is a world where that dynamic is broken up, where sex and power don’t have to be so closely intertwined, where there’s room for thinking sex differently all together. So in that sense, I did disagree with the film: it didn’t go far enough for me.
But that doesn’t mean it’s clearsighted analysis of the situation as is is without value or doesn’t interest. Breillat’s rightfully shameless depiction of sex and Marie’s (sexual) desire is in itself impressive and important to see. It’s too rare that we get to see women who simply enjoy and desire, and have the moral judgement and the feminist implications come at a later point.
But they do come and give food for thought and discussion. Thanks to Breillat’s intelligent radicality, the film evades easy answers for pretty much everything. Even for the question what Marie is looking for, exactly, and whether she finds it. The only thing I can say for certain after seeing the film is that Rocco Siffredi is pretty hot.