It was cozy in the reception before the last showing for the night. Collecting ballots for the CineKink awards, I turned to find myself standing in front of a man wearing a warm smile, and a pass around his neck simply labeled "filmmaker."
I stated the obvious. "You're a filmmaker."
He gave the obvious answer. "Yes."
"Which one is yours?"
"The one we are about to see."
"Oh, Marriage 2.0. I was looking forward to that film. It's about polyamory, right?"
His eyebrow lifted in a way that made me think I might be mistaken, and my heart clenched with the anticipation of having embarrassed myself in front of Someone of Importance (which as a masochist, also produced a small tingle in my Parts of Importance.)
We felt each other up, intellectually speaking. "It centers around polyamory, yes."
"Are you poly?" Feeling slightly protective of the kink/poly community, I wanted to make sure that I didn't have the polyamorous equivalent to E.L. James standing in front of me. How much respect I should grant this person who has spoken for a community which is simultaneously and eagerly scrutinized and shamed in the media?
"No." He almost laughed. I had to settle for a smile which crept into the far reaching corners of his lips.
"Then why did you make a film about being poly?"
"I thought it was a good story to tell."
Fair enough. I tell stories, too. Not all of them are reflections of myself, though sometimes I troll the shadows in between my own words. I wondered if he was the same with his films.
"What message are you trying to send with this film?"
This time, the laugh escaped him. "Oh no," he chuckled, "You go in and watch the film, and then you come back here and tell me what you think the messages are." The subtle point to his finger was more directive than suggestion.
"That's the same thing I would say about my writing." At least as an artist, I trusted him now. I had no idea whose attention I had been keeping.
The title itself suggests an upgraded albeit traditional marriage structure, so I wasn't surprised to see that the film revolves around a solid 8-year long relationship between two unbelievably hawt - hawt - individuals played by India Summer and Ryan Driller. (Haven’t I seen her somewhere before? I can’t place it…. )
The film is being told from a privileged perspective. The story of the polyamorous couple opening up their relationship to others is the easiest to tell with regard to social discrimination and relatability to the the current patriarchal, hierarchical marriage structure. You did say it was 2.0, though, and not 3.5. I’m a little ahead of the curve with my expectations, so as the film opens I try to adjust to the intended audiences’ point of view - one that is brand new to the idea of ethical, open relationships.
Of the films at the festival - all of them carefully and expertly curated for creative stretches and reverberating narratives - this one was clearly at CineKink to show off the narrative. It wasn’t until the first sex scene, appropriately placed in context of a pleasantly gradual character development, that I realized -
Holy Fuck. This is porn. Really. Hot. Porn.
The characters interact easily as friends. There is depth, particularly with Andre Shakti, who most successfully leaped between aesthetically gorgeous sex and laid back dialogue. She seemed to do both effortlessly. It was the grace of someone who lives to the motto IDontGiveAFuck in the most casual IReallyMeanIt kind of way, and it translated on film as genuinely as it did in person. It is no wonder that the film won Best Narrative Feature.
If it wasn’t enough to be a healthy portrayal of ethical polyamory, the film also broke social stigmas in SM activity. The voyeuristic view of a visually enchanting sadomasochistic scene, shot in one 45 minute long take, was breathtakingly powerful. The energy felt among people engaging on that level of veracious play stretched through the lens and found me in the back of the audience, mouth gapped and trembling in a familiar anticipation of intense sensation. I was struck hard.
Writer and producer Magnus Sullivan spoke about issues in the editing process of the intense spanking and bondage scene, expressing that he felt the film was unnecessarily censored. Admittedly, no intensity was lost because we didn’t actually get to see the marks resulting from her impact play. I guess now I get to imagine them blossoming across her ass like a bouquets of green and purple flowers.
The film is honest. I nodded through ethical polyamory threads woven through the story. One moment in particular, when jealousy had taken over Kara’s emotions and she had kicked Eric out of their home, Eric went to his girlfriend’s boathouse to get comfort and shelter. Although I fucking loved the sex, and this would have been the perfect setup for a great one - I was mouthing, “Don’t let him stay. Don’t let him stay!” through the whole scene, hoping against hope that the character would demonstrate some ethics and consideration for the Kara’s relationship with Eric. And she fucking did. That moment made the difference to me between calling this film a porn, and calling this a narrative film featuring stunningly beautiful pornography.
Now that I’ve seen ethical polyamory, I’m fairly warmed up to this film. But only an act of compersion will flutter me fully pink. Dare I expect this film to take me all the way?
Oh yes. After Kara begins to experiment with the poly household full of gorgeous people who all get along famously and have emotionally empathetic orgies (ok, the film requires the ability to suspend some disbelief once in a while), there is a moment when her date, Edward, tells Kara, “I like the way you love Eric. It’s deep, it’s passionate. It’s enduring.” If there ever was a moment that encapsulated so concisely what it means to feel compersion, that was it. It was so genuinely spoken it was as if the the actor himself, not the character, was saying it. I honestly believed he meant it. And then I got to watch his gorgeous cock fill India Summer in her daydream for a while.
I was still taking ballots for the award when the filmmaker asked me what I thought of it. How can I convey all of these thoughts to this man while gracefully exiting audience in the span of the next 30 seconds?
“I have a lot to say, but the most concise way to express it is this: I went into this film thinking it was a narrative about being poly. I left this film thinking it was a narrative about being poly.”
It just happens to happens to have stunning pornography well executed in context of the story. Sweet bonus, eh?
I would fully endorse Marriage 2.0 for people breaking free from the normative social structures of traditional marriage as a touchstone to land on while they ponder possibilities. It’s just what it advertises, and so much more at the same time. Did I mention there is hawt orgy fucking? It takes the next step toward creating understanding of ethical, open relationships like polyamory.
I’m trembling in the afterglow, and yet hungry for more. Just like any good scene should be.