The Slut: Slave or master of sexual liberty?
by Fabien Lemercier
12/05/2011 - Nothing can get in the way of physical impulses, not even when they create chaos or carry with them the seeds of self-destruction. This could be the moral of The Slut [trailer], by Isreali director Hagar Ben Asher. Co-produced with Germany, this surprising and well crafted feature debut was presented today in the International Critics’ Week (SIC) of the 64th Cannes Film Festival.
The film opens with a shocking scene of extreme beauty (which should not be disclosed), then the rhythm slows to recount, through a flashback, the relationship, only several months old, between Tamar (Ben Asher) and Shai (Ishai Golan).
A single mother of two, living in a virtually uninhabited rural area (captured by several wonderful long shots), Tamar tries to eke out a living by selling eggs from her chicken coop, and above all satisfying the sexual needs of various neighbours. Yet money isn’t the only thing pushing her into these clandestine exchanges of fellatio and masturbation.
"There’s nothing I can do, it’s fun!" is the only explanation Tamar manages to give of a dependence that lies between nymphomania and voluntary sexual slavery.
The arrival of veterinarian Shai, who has returned to his hometown to take care of his mother’s dilapidated house, opens new horizons for Tamar. Shai falls in love with and offers her kindness, to which Tamar is not, or is no longer, accustomed (her past remains a mystery). Over time, the man also becomes a sweet, affectionate stepfather to her children.
But Tamar’s “regulars” can’t accept this new family. At first, the young woman avoids them, but ultimately gives in to their psychological pressures and her sexual dependence. This creates a lot pain, which can be seen as the result of the inevitability of fate or an act of rebellion of an animal instinct that refuses to be encaged.
Nurturing a subtle ambiguity between notions of victimhood and free will, the film strongly evokes a sense of suffocation of a woman prey to the men who abuse her loneliness as much as to her own desires and impulses, which she cannot control, even at the risk of destroying her own family. Who is the mouse and who is the cat in this game? The director (who also wrote the script) offers no easy answer.
Proving a tremendous sensibility with the mise-en-scene, especially in the wide exteriors, Ben Asher advances her story with minimal dialogue, playing instead (and very well) with exchanges of looks (that are greedy, heavy, sad, tender, disturbing, fleeting, etc.). Capturing with extreme realism the peaceful countryside, inhabited by animals and laconic people, the 31-year-old director offers a portray of a complex woman against the backdrop of a paradoxical universe, as closed as it is transparent, and tackles a potentially explosive theme with disarming simplicity.
The Slut was produced by Transfax with Germany’s Rohfilm and with backing from the TorinoFilmLab, World Cinema Fund and Cinéfondation. International sales are handled by French company Films Distribution.
(Translated from French)