By Julianna Joyce
Centered around the tumultuous break up of two actresses, Mal and Zoe, who fell in love during the filming of a love scene, Anatomy of a Love Seen flows in echoes of languid beauty and quick-framed visions of raw humanity.
Director Marina Bader creates a deeply human experience, exploring the difficult entangled emotions of a break up, while visually filling the screen with a symphony of masterful images and breathtaking cinematography. The film manages to incorporate dichotomous notions: ethereal softness and erosive brutality, dark and cold, while still be warm and familiar.
Watching as the two ex-lovers tackle the artfully filmed flashbacks of happier times, upon meeting again after several weeks, is sure to bring up some unwelcome memories of your own. The familiar tug on your heartstrings as Zoe struggles to breathe while remembering when she and Mal fell in love draws you in on a level beyond relating to the character. It isn’t so much that you can understand the dripping villainy in Zoe’s harsh words, but you can feel yourself saying them at some point in time. Mal’s vulnerability becomes yours, and you are pulled so tightly into the film it’s almost unbearable. Because as humans, we’ve all at some point felt the sting of a hurtful word, or built a wall to fight back against the person we care about most. By exploring this human need to shut others out, to be intimate, to love until it hurts, Bader speaks to a deeper more hidden part in all of us.
And while all these emotions swirl around the main characters, the audience is also made aware of the artifice of film. Film crews mill around the set while the two women break down. The director of the film inside the film intervenes incessantly between the two ex-lovers, and the constant retouching of makeup, cutting of lights and set commands remind the audience that not everything seen on the silver screen is perfect without a heavy amount of editing. A breathtaking love scene and a whirlwind romance only exists on screen. Real life is much more raw and out of our control.
As a piece of LGBTQ media, the film far transcends the idea of simple visibility. There is never any discussion of the sexual preference of gender of Mal or Zoe. The fact that the relationship is between two women is far less important than showing the vulnerability and beauty of human emotion. The notion of two women being in love is made to feel and look completely natural, unstereotyped and without taboo. In short, the relationship between the women is treated the way LGBTQ relationships should be treated in the real world.
This is the story of two people in and out of love, showing emotions any and everybody has felt, regardless of race, sex or gender. Delving into a discussion of the characters as believable images on screen would be futile, because they are written so well that they could be easily exchanged with any other man or woman, and the film would still retain its integrity.
There are moments when the film feels a bit contrived, but that notion is immediately removed from your mind within minutes as your eyes are filled with fantastic aesthetics, masterful cinematography and a sense of emotional empathy. The film does an excellent job of showing that love is love, gutting, overwhelming, high or low. It doesn’t matter who you are or who you love.
Gorgeous, cutting and most certainly worth a watch, Anatomy of a Love Seen is devastating beauty at its best.