Our in-house critic, Wilfred Okiche, was invited to the 2019 Berlinale Film Festival as part of its Berlinale Talents programme and is sending dispatches from the front lines of global film, enjoy.
Opening the Perspektive Deutsches Kino section of this year’s Berlinale, Tamer Jandali’s feature-length debut, Easy Love, is a hybrid documentary-fiction experimental foray that blurs the lines between fiction and reality. From the get-go, Jandali declares his agenda, prefacing Easy Love with the mantra, “No Actors, No Scripts, No Fake Emotions”.
Jandali follows seven mostly heterosexual adult individuals navigating the limits of sexual behavior as they constantly negotiate ideas of romantic relationships. There are no rules to the game and within the context of their individual lives, the characters meet cute, fall in love, break up with, hurt and brutalize each other.
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A couple seeks to convince themselves, and the audience of the merits of opening up their relationship to accommodate other sexual partners, a homeless man resorts to trading his body for a bed to spend the night in, a young lady takes up transactional sex and clashes with her more conservative mother, and a couple engage in a same-sex relationship whilst living in a tiny apartment.
All of these stories have merit of course, but Jandali appears to be under the impression that the gimmick of following his real-life subjects around for a period of months gives his project enough impetus.
Because of this approach, Jandali’s film is at its core, a semi-controlled study of contemporary urban adult living, but what makes Easy Love potentially more interesting is that anyone coming in with no preconceived notions is likely- due to the slick, fly-on-the-wall production and ‘’convincing’’ performances of the actors- going to think of it as a fictionalized account of the sex and mating rituals of a cohort of privileged German adults.
Jandali’s camera is voyeuristic as it follows the characters using sharp cuts and snappy edits. The characters largely exist within the confines of the same city and the homogenous composition sometimes makes it hard to keep the stories separated. But the film’s lack of narrative urgency ensures the arcs never really overlap even though they are all united by themes of sexual frustrations and unrequited romantic attractions.
These mini-stories may be forward thinking and certainly attempt to push the button just a wee bit- same-sex mentions, multiple graphic sex scenes and normalization of fetishes- but there is little that is particularly novel about them as they cover issues and themes that have all been dealt with on film comprehensively and in more interesting, diverse ways elsewhere. The British/Polish independent film, My Friend the Polish Girl for instance, which debuted in the Bright Future category of the International Film Festival, Rotterdam last year, was more ambitious, confronting similar style and themes, but venturing into more ambiguous territories of exploitation using the camera, plus the ethical limits of documenting the lives of human subjects.
This premise might make Easy Love stand out from the pack of films screening in the Perspektive Deutsches Kino, a sidebar dedicated to upcoming German filmmakers, but the entire experience would be more rewarding if Easy Love had anything convincingly new to add about the state of modern relationships.
This post first appeared on the Berlinale Talent Press website.
Wilfred Okiche is a medic, reader, writer, journalist, culture critic, and occasional ruffler of feathers. One of the most influential critics working in the Nigerian culture space, his writing has appeared extensively in platforms like YNaija.com and 360nobs.com. Okiche has provided editorial assistance to the UK Guardian and has had his work published in African Arguments, Africa is a Country and South Africa’s City Press. He has received trainings and acquired experience in multimedia and online journalism. He also appears on the culture television show, Africana Literati. He has participated at critic programs in Lagos, Durban and Rotterdam.