The Language of Love
, 29 Oct 2010
If this film were half the length, it would be one of the most unintentionally funny films ever made. It's part of the SWEDISH EROTICA package, but it's about as erotic as concrete; instead, it's a clinical sex education film which claims to 'present reality exactly as it is'. People around the world flocked to see it in the early '70s because, in between loads of tedious footage of people talking (the bit that was supposed to lend legitimacy to the enterprise) it got away with unsimulated coition and rather off-putting close-ups of men and women's wrinkly naughty bits. For trivia fans, it's also the sex film Travis Bickle frequents in TAXI DRIVER.
Porn generally is boring, so faced with such blatant hypocrisy in the film's dated intentions, our interest shifts to the four Swedish sexologists who sit around for what seems like days and pretend to have a spontaneous discussion about sex. Sex is quite NORMAL, they reassure us. There is nothing any of us do that is not NORMAL. All 4 of these people, in fact, are so keen to appear NORMAL that they begin to seem VERY DISTURBING INDEED. Inge and Sten, for example, are sexologists who are MARRIED. (This is particularly NORMAL.) They don't communicate very much, and each interestingly avoids eye contact when the other witters on about masturbation, but we somehow feel they probably practise very successfully what they preach. Sten spends much of the film puffing amusedly on a pipe, emptying it of tobacco and then filling it again. This, we come to realise, is quite, quite NORMAL. So laid-back he seems horizontal, Sten is however at one point suddenly energised by the thought of a vibrator, which he produces from a nearby cupboard and switches on. The thing rolls about the table for a while and everyone else laughs, though in a jaded, seen-it-all-before, this-is-all-really-completely-NORMAL sort of way.
Next to Sten is Maj-Brith Somebody-or-Other-with-a-Very-Long-Name, who looks like a cross between Rosa Klebb and Ann Widdecombe, and often looks angry because she can't speak English as well as the others. Opposite her is the somewhat sinister Dr. Cullhed, whose haircut is, um, of its time, and whose attempts to be taken seriously are thwarted by the fact that, for much of his time on-camera, he has a large porcelain rooster behind his head. However, many audience questions are being posed by this foursome. 'Why do you have a big rooster behind your head?' is one. 'How can anyone, even in the '70s, sit through this film in its entirety?' is another. And 'why are so many of the people in this movie so hairy?' About halfway into the film, there's an alarming scene of physical intimacy (on a rotating circular bed surrounded by cameras, intended to simulate the intimacy of 'normal' love-making conditions) in which something small but very hairy indeed is repeatedly pushing itself between the kisses of a loving couple. What in God's name is that, you ask, suddenly diverted from the film's pathetic attempts to arouse you. Is it a now-mercifully-obsolete '70s fungus, perhaps; or perhaps one of those eeky parasites out of a David Cronenberg movie? No, best beloved. It's the man's moustache - and it's extraordinary. Later, there's a scene in which a man who looks like Blakey off ON THE BUSES prances about in his underwear to some very silly music. His 'wife', who is several centuries younger, refuses to have sex with him. None of this is surprising.
Fortunately, Maj-Brith - who is looking more ferocious than ever - comes to the film's rescue. 'There are many women who have a great deed...NEED...for sexual, um, satisfaction,' she stutters, eventually. Then she shouts 'WHAT SHOULD WE DO ABOUT THAT?', and looks pointedly at Dr. Cullhed. The good doctor, outwardly calm but inwardly probably terrified, looks away. 'Perhaps we can't do anything at all,' he says, wisely changing the subject. With nothing in common but their love of appearing in bad sex films, the pair wisely go in their separate scientific directions. Maj-Brith gives a sex education talk to kids as bored as the Monty Python team in THE MEANING OF LIFE, while Dr. Cullhed - in a scene that's at once hilarious and offensive - sees to an attractive young woman who wants fitting with a diaphragm. He decides to give her a full vaginal examination - in close-up, for our educational benefit. Another, equally attractive woman, asks about the coil. Dr. Cullhed indulges in another close-up examination. Then a third woman, the most attractive of all, asks him about the pill. We expect a moment of great comedy as the good doctor uses the opportunity to get in a third irrelevant examination, but the film jibs out and we get another few minutes of pseudo-scientific droning instead.
By the end of the film, if you get that far, the four sexologists look knackered. Maj-Brith appears to have melted into her armchair. Some of the final shots are pointlessly taken from behind a butterfly mobile, giving surreal prominence to a large red lampshade, as if the cameraman was as bored with the proceedings as everyone else and wanted to cheer himself up. So if it's erotica you're after, forget it. The entertainment value of this film is low indeed. But if you want a bit of a giggle, any 15 minutes of this should get you going. Laughing, that is - nothing else, no sirree.
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