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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Loft (2015), and How Erotic Thrillers Work

         "The people you love, they're the ones who can hurt you."
Starring: James Marsden, Karl Urban, Wentworth Miller, 
Written By: Bart De Pauw, Wesley Strick
Directed By: Erik Van Looy
Release Date: January 20, 2015
While there are a plethora of films that would be much more interesting to talk about in order to fully dissect the genre of erotic thrillers, Erik Van Looy's 2014 film, The Loft, is a great example of how erotic thrillers are a valuable resource for investigating the deep-seated complexities of sexuality, but more importantly, how not to do so. 
The Loft revolves around five men in unhappy marriages that share a single loft where they bring their individual mistresses. Upon arriving at the loft one morning, Luke (Wentworth Miller) finds the body of Sarah Deacons, the mistress of one of the men who share the loft.  the rest of the film follows Luke and the other men, Vincent (Karl Urban), Chris (James Marsden), Marty (Eric Stonestreet) and Philip (Matthias Schoenaerts) as they try to piece together what has happened because only one of them could have killed this woman.
Before I begin to break down how The Loft fails as an erotic thriller, I'll first break down what erotic thrillers are.They're films that are thrilling in nature, involving some sort of mystery, while also being thematically based on illicit or taboo romances or erotic fantasies. In her book, Sexy Thrills: Undressing the Erotic Thriller Nina K. Martin, explains that "the predominating syntax that shapes these films combine romanticized, 'erotic' appeal with a dangerous 'thriller' narrative -- a 'pleasure/danger' principle." Earlier examples of the genre include movies like Fatal Attraction and more modern examples include Rob Cohen's The Boy Next Door, it important to note that in these films a very key element of the plot and how the lead characters operate revolve around the power of their own sexualities.
Gayle Rubin states in her essay, Thinking sex: Notes for a radical theory of the politics of sexuality, that, "power is intrinsic to sexuality." The erotic appeal of this film lies in the fact that these men are cheating on their wives. Most people don't seek to actively cheat on their partners as it's considered immoral and bad, but most people wish they could and that's the power that these on-screen characters hold.The dimension or extent to how much power goes into sexuality has been systematized in today's society by some sort of hierarchy. The categorization and condemnation of certain types of sexuality involving stereotypes and systems of sexual taboos are what drive certain types of sex to be label as "good sex" and "bad sex." Rubin goes on to describe the hierarchy placing marital, reproductive heterosexuals alone at the top of the erotic pyramid because having a stable, sexually healthy marriage is deemed the most important today. The eroticism involved in adultery, which plays a huge role in erotic thrillers, is what is deemed as "bad sex" because it disrupts and mocks the values and importance of marriage and the power it holds in society being at the top of the chain. Most erotic thrillers also follow this sort of ideology, having the "bad sex" resulting in punishment for the adulterer in question, which frames the plot of the film. The dangerous, risky element does not result from the audience questioning whether or not they will cheat on their spouses simply because we know they will. Many erotic thrillers are precautionary tales that warn audiences about the dangers of engaging in "bad sex." In both Fatal Attraction and The Boy Next Door, both leads try to fight off the person trying to seduce them. They eventually give in to their temptations and regret their actions. Upon trying to return to their marriages, they then punished by the person they slept because they broke the rules and their vows to their significant other. However, what sets these films apart from a film like The Loft, is the fact that the leads in the other two films are actually likable. They're actually everyday people like you or me, which is why we're so better able to accept their philandering and root for them against the villain. We care about them. 
Though the idea of adultery is a selfish act in itself, it's the guilt and resentment that typically follows flings like the ones depicted that make us care for them through their selfishness. It's also what makes the film all the more satisfying once the danger is over and they can go back to their husbands or wives.This is not the case in The Loft because unlike the other two films I previously mentioned, this is not a precautionary tale or even one of retribution. The typical moral standpoint that infidelity is wrong and again, that's the ideology most erotic thrillers follow. Here, that ideology is very screwed up because no one seemingly regrets their actions even after they've been punished. They commit their acts of adultry and at the end of the film when everything is revealed and they've been severly punished, one man goes back to his wife, one man is divorced, one man is in jail and one man leaves his wife for his mistress, but none of these actions have much depth behind them. They're simple to the point that they have nothing to say. In both Fatal Attraction and The Boy Next Door, when the leads gets back with their significant others, it's because evil has been defeated and their actions have been rectified and they've changed their philandering ways. The men in The Loft are still the same men they were when the movie began, so no matter where your moral compass lies in accordance to adultery, the men in this film will still continuously let you down.
 None of the men in this film have any sort of redeemable qualities. They utter sexist jargon like "you can't rape a whore" or "every fat chick has a good looking friend" and they aren't thinking about how breaking the bonds of marriage are wrong, nor do they feel any guilt about doing so (besides "nice guy" James Marsden). They're only thinking about what it would look like if they got caught for their infidelities, blatantly ignoring that the dead woman in front of them is an actual person. She, like most of the women in the film, is written off as one-dimensional stereotypes. They're either hot, blonde and a mistress to one of these men or they're a nagging shrew of a wife. The women in this film are more caricatures than actual people, given simple, clear-cut character flaws without much development whatsoever. They're written off as if it is the specific flaws themselves that drove their husbands to cheat and not their husband's pigheadedness. Though many females in erotic thrillers are either put in the position of the cheater or are the punisher of the cheater, they still have some sort of agency in the film and they're given some sort of story to work with so that there is something to discuss. We're still asking today whether or not the lead villainess in Fatal Attraction was warranted in her terrorizing her victim. There's a reason behind what she does and why she's seemingly so attracted to this man. She has depth, regardless of the fact that the film seemingly writes her off as just another crazy, scorned woman. In The Loft, we learn about nothing of these women in the film nor do we care to because the film fails to go deep enough so that we have questions to ask. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm not satisfied with the ending. After many things happening during a film I hope the end is more complex but clear and logical.

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