Two European-set love stories separated by nearly a century, Lady Chatterley and In the City of Sylvia share a fascination with the art and practice of “looking.” This video essay picks up on a special connection between these two films.
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In Lady Chatterley a single act of looking
triggers a profoundly physical reaction.
The body is filmed with a flat medium lens
surrounded in green, a mere fact of nature.
Lush sound design conveys
a feeling of immersion in wilderness.
Handheld camerawork expresses
the tumultuous effect of what she’s seen.
The scene cuts between
shots of his naked torso bathing
and her reflecting on the spectacle.
The cuts create a tension
between two unresolved spaces,
A man’s real image
feels unreal in her mind.
This tension will be resolved
over time with further contact
as images reinforce the real sensation of touch
until the two lovers achieve union
in a cinematic state of nature.
In In the City of Sylvia
the act of looking also triggers feelings
of disembodiement and disorientation
But instead of triggering a bodily response
looking becomes its own act of physical exertion
A glimpse of a woman obscured by reflections
draws attention to both the effort and the aesthetics of looking.
He follows her throughout the city.
He seems less interested in actually connecting with her
than in reveling in how her presence
redefines everything around her
heightening the audiovisual
sensations of urban space.
She’s less a person
than an iconic fetish object
a totem for us to enter a kingdom
of rhythmic light and sound.
But if you think this is about
connecting with a real person…
Kevin B. Lee is Editor in Chief of IndieWire’s PressPlay Video Blog and contributor to Roger Ebert.com. Follow him on Twitter.