Th!nkFilm // 2007 // 92 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // February 11th, 2008
Sex and love. Some seek it, some need it, some spurn it, and some pay for it, but we're all consumed by it.
First-time directors and screenwriters often struggle to get a project financed and distributed, but in the case of Ed Blum and Aschlin Ditta, it worked out pretty well. For Scenes of a Sexual Nature, they took matters into their own hands, developing their own clever strategies to gather some money, score a short theatrical run, and sign a deal for a DVD release. Sad to say, while the production process of the movie is quite fascinating, the film itself undoubtedly misses its mark. It's not as sexy as it seems.
Set on one nice afternoon on Hampstead Heath in London, Scenes of a Sexual Nature focuses on several individuals struggling with the complexity of love: a married couple facing unexpected trouble; a gay couple thinking about adopting a child; a young couple breaking up; a divorcing couple chatting about the past; a lonely man paying for companionship; two individuals who find out they were lovers a long time ago; and two strangers who go on an awkward blind date.
I could easily come up with a list of formidable and highly innovative films about the beauty of life, intricacies of love, and the passion of sex, but Scenes of a Sexual Nature would definitely not be on it. There's hardly anything sexual about these different stories, and they aren't very intriguing or revealing either. Writer Aschlin Ditta desperately tries to extract as much humor and emotions as possible out of his simplistic characters, but he obviously fails to do so. His good intentions are easily detectable, but his story line is simply not powerful enough to captivate audiences. While Ditta chose an interesting thematic structure for his script, he executed his ideas in a rather blatant manner.
Dividing the script into seven little stories about different couples is a brilliant idea, because otherwise it would be hard for many spectators to sit through the entire film without checking their watch or dozing off. Luckily for us, the film intercuts between the different couples often enough, which significantly boosts the pace of the plot. While I have to admit that I halfway appreciate two or three of these individual scenes, most of them simply don't work. For instance, Ewan McGregor's clash with his gay partner offers considerable substance. He and his lover seriously discuss their future and try hard enough to find a compromise that suits them best. McGregor's character desires to adopt a child and swears he will stop sleeping around if his partner quits his job to help run the household. Their fiery debate is watchable indeed.
Other stories, however, never take off. The scene about the young guy trying to lure every woman he meets into his bed offers nothing remotely funny or dramatic, and even the unexpected reunion of two former lovers on a bench end up being philosophically weak and rather uninteresting. Ditta obviously tries hard to dig a littler deeper into the mystery of love and lust and explore different concepts of love, but it has all been done many times before (I'm referring to the far superior Love Actually and Before Sunrise). While most of these stories wrap with a depressing message and the monotonous plot fails to boost the level of entertainment of the film, at least the gorgeous landscapes are beautiful to look at.
The biggest reason behind the failure of Scenes of a Sexual Nature is the lack of chemistry between most members of the cast. Most of the time, the actors seem to lack commitment and personality, as if they simply read their lines without showing any emotions. Only Ewan McGregor discussing an adoption with his partner and Hugh Bonneville trying hard not to completely mess up his first blind date break through this wall and deliver realistic enough performances. Sadly enough, that's all folks!
On a more positive note, the film benefits from a great video transfer. Although Blum only had a tiny budget to work with, his equipment was professional enough to produce a sharp and colorful image. The audio is always crucial in films set completely in natural surroundings, but the quality of the sound is top-notch as well.
As far as special features go, the disc includes an impressive 40-minute behind-the-scenes featurette. Director Ed Blum kicks off by discussing various aspects of the production of the film, including the birth of the idea, the hunt for a budget, and the relatively short shooting. Interestingly, he also says he chose Hampstead Heath as main location because he wanted to create a "sexually charged" oasis in the heart of London. He says parks are ideal places for people who are having affairs. Most members of the cast also get an opportunity to speak up, and they talk about what intrigued them about their characters in the film. Furthermore, this excellent documentary also touches on the casting, the script, the editing, and the challenge of distributing a low-budget film in a highly competitive market. Even if you hated the feature film, I suggest taking a look at the making-of. Film buffs will find it engaging and insightful.
Besides a trailer gallery showcasing upcoming Th!inkFilm releases, the bonus material also comprises a solid filmmakers' commentary with Ed Blum and Aschlin Ditta. Although they don't take it too seriously and obviously had great fun recording it, they discuss select scenes in great detail and often add interesting facts about the shooting or post-production. While Ditta obviously talks more about the structure of the film and the thematic, Blum prefers to tell his viewers a little bit more about the locations, the tight shooting schedule, and the weather, which is always crucial in England. They both touch on a lot they already mentioned in the featurette, but all in all deliver an entertaining commentary that may captivate you more than the feature film itself.
In short, Scenes of a Sexual Nature lacks punch and creativity. I clearly see the potential of Ed Blum and Aschlin Ditta, but they could have easily done a better job on the script, even with an almost nonexistent budget. I totally respect their efforts and think it's fabulous they distributed this flick all by themselves, but that does not necessarily make the end product a cinematic jewel.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Making-of Featurette
* Commentary with Director Ed Blum and Writer Aschlin Ditta
* Interview with Director Ido Haar
* Official Site