THE LOSS OF SEXUAL INNOCENCE
Release Date: May 28, 1999
Runtime: 105 minutes
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Director: Mike Figgis
Producer: Annie Stewart
Writer: Mike Figgis
Address Comments To:
This seems to be the problem with the new movie, THE LOSS OF SEXUAL INNOCENCE, by Mike Figgis (LEAVING LAS VEGAS). Willful, self-indulgent ignorance prevents this morality tale from being fully enriching. Graphic nudity, sexual situations and strong foul language further damage its artistic and spiritual qualities.
Told in a non-linear fashion, THE LOSS OF SEXUAL INNOCENCE is the story of Nic, a married documentary filmmaker in England. The movie shows glimpses of events in his life at 5-years-old, 12 and 16, interspersed with scenes of Nic as a fully grown man. Nic at 5 plays with boys in the street and sees a dead body for the first time in England. Meanwhile, an old man in Kenya, Africa listens to a young native girl in her underwear read. At 12, Nic sees more dead bodies and is forced by his physical education instructor to run a gauntlet of boys using tennis shoes as whipping paddles. At 16, Nic has an adolescent petting affair with a girl named Susan.
In the scenes showing Nic as a grown man, Nic travels to a vacation cottage with his wife and young son, where Nic and his wife make love and then have weird dreams with sexual content. Nic leaves the cottage to help three Europeans in Tunisia, including a beautiful dark-haired Italian woman and her lover, film part of a documentary of some sort. Nic has a sexual tryst with the woman, leading to jealousy and tragedy.
Cross-cut with these scenes of Nic is a surrealistic retelling of the classic Bible story of Adam and Eve, who are depicted as a black man and a fair-haired white woman. Eve gets upset when Adam seems content with just eating grass. She finds a fruit tree with a snake in it. Both she and Adam eat the fruit, then get sick and collapse on a bed and a chair in a ruined building. When they awake, they have intercourse. That night, during a rainstorm, policemen with dogs kick them out of the park they inhabited, whereupon they are greeted by a bunch of paparazzi taking their pictures while they dress. At one point in this story, Eve passes a wooden crucifix with Jesus on it. When the policemen kick them out, a large, blue neon cross occupies the background.
The wages of sin bring death, separation and humiliation in this movie by the writer and director of LEAVING LAS VEGAS, the acclaimed, but otherwise inconsequential movie starring Nicolas Cage as a destructive alcoholic. Thus, THE LOSS OF SEXUAL INNOCENCE has a mildly moral worldview, despite its graphic nude scenes of Adam and Eve and its sexual content. Regrettably, however, its surrealistic retelling of the story of Adam and Eve is inaccurate. Both Adam and Eve emerge from water instead of being crafted by God from the elements of the earth and from Adam's side. Thus, God plays no role in their story here. Apparently, the policemen who kick them out of the park area represent God's angels, though director Mike Figgis calls them "fascists" on the website for this movie.
Furthermore, the references to Jesus Christ and the Cross in the Adam and Eve sections of the movie are ambiguous. In biblical theology, Christ the Messiah is "the seed of the woman," Eve, who crushes the head of Satan and redeems mankind from its sins. So, the references to Jesus and the Cross in this movie perhaps can be viewed as a foreshadowing of mankind's need for a Savior after the Fall in the Garden. It is hard to say, though, whether Mr. Figgis really intends this meaning. His comment about the policemen being fascists and the absence of God in his story may indicate something else.
Artistically, THE LOSS OF SEXUAL INNOCENCE is not edifying. The movie is more a series of cryptic, uneventful vignettes that only become more understandable as more is revealed. There is an excellent suspense sequence where the Italian woman with whom Nic later fornicates barely misses meeting her long-lost twin, a short-haired woman from England, in an airport. The twins were illegitimate orphans in a convent in Italy who were separated during their infancy. Even here, sin generates evil consequences. Thus, fornication leads to illegitimate birth and family breakup.
Ultimately, however, THE LOSS OF SEXUAL INNOCENCE is more self-indulgent than rewarding, both artistically and spiritually, although it does include some fine music by Beethoven, Mozart and Chopin. The general moviegoing public probably will find this movie boring and too weird. If so, it would be hard to argue with them.