Unconventional Love Stories
1, 2, 3, 4, tell me that you love me more
There's more to love than the beginnings of a grade-school valentine. Love is ... infinite yet confined within shifting parameters, fickle and concrete, unique but categorical, innate or culturally propelled. Three films premiering at SXSW this year offer revamped and fresh spins on the many forms of love, each employing one or more of love's four conceptual corners: the blinding romance of eros, the circumstantial conjoining of storge, philia's friendships, and the unconditional fluidity of agape.
In Animals, a pair of lovers fights the devastation of self-destructive burdens, their pain eased only by an unwavering, if tested, commitment to each other. The Special Need sees two friends attempting to help their third musketeer as he struggles with a primal and all-encompassing desire for physical love; they road trip through Europe on a mission, only to tap into a discovery rich in the quandaries of love. The Desert scales back common genre tropes of horror to explore animal behavior in its most rudimentary, sinister forms while a love triangle is destroyed. Desperation is a catalyst, the hierarchy is scrambled, and maybe love only wins sometimes.
Narrative Competition, World PremiereSunday, March 9, 6:30pm, Alamo Ritz
Monday, March 10, 2pm, Rollins
Thursday, March 13, 7pm, Stateside
Bobbie and Jude are madly in love, their passion fueled by routine escapes from the harsh reality of daily life. Drug addiction rules their kingdom, but their subsequent poverty cages them within a private prison. Written by and starring David Dastmalchian (Prisoners, The Dark Knight), opposite Kim Shaw, Animals is based on personal experience riddled by addiction and car-dwelling in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood, where it was largely filmed. The couple circles the Lincoln Park Zoo, holding hands in theft and schemes to score, estranged from their families but content in their beautiful pipe dream. But faced with sudden separation, the duo is forced to face the music. At the root of a full-circle plot, Animals offers a view of the often misunderstood behavioral anomalies of addicts in love. Though their inherent cultural advantages – white, middle class – are acknowledged, skewed perceptions of self and circumstance abound. This twisted love story serves as an intimate portrayal of a plan, precariously balanced on razor's edge, gone awry. When one half is hospitalized, where will the other turn? Will they escape the rabbit hole? Will their love story survive?
The Special Need
SXGlobal, North American PremiereSunday, March 9, 1:45pm, Alamo Ritz
Monday, March 10, 11am, Alamo Village
Thursday, March 13, 2pm, VCC
In The Special Need, Enea wants to have sex. His carnal urge stems from the fundamental human need for physical touch and its emotional connectivity, but his autism both fuels and complicates his obsession. His friends Carlo and Alex see their friend's struggle, and the trio piles into a Volkswagen to fulfill his sexual quest, road-trip-style. Broken into three segments, the film journeys from the origin story in Udine, Italy, to an Austrian brothel to a therapeutic sexuality counseling center in Germany. Though categorically a documentary, director Carlo Zoratti orchestrates scenes to demonstrate Enea's intimate predicament, lending a narrative quality. And, while the documentary style applied to a controversial and progressive subject could raise questions of exploitation, the original mission ultimately evolves into multiple concurrent love stories – not just Enea and his sexual quest, but between the three friends, as well – breaking down preconceived notions of disability and tackling the cultural taboos of sexuality. Through tears and laughter and interesting sidebars on his perception of himself and others, Enea walks the learning curve, supported by his friends, as he slowly transitions his affections from magazine models to women he knows and ultimately recognizes his desire for companionship. Enea wants love.
The Desert (El Desierto)
SXGlobal, North American PremiereFriday, March 7, 6:30pm, Alamo Ritz
Saturday, March 8, 9:45pm, Alamo Slaughter
Monday, March 10, 7pm, Alamo Ritz
Friday, March 14, 9:30pm, Alamo Ritz
It's a mad, post-apocalyptic world of brutality and undead outside the confines of a makeshift shelter in The Desert. What begins as a unified trio of survivors – perhaps even an idealistic version of polyamory – splinters under the pressures of fear from the evils outside, and fractures under the loneliness and lies rooted in self-preservation inside. A far cry from genre-typical, The Desert shape-shifts from ill-fated love story to guttural scream as the eerily even-keeled suspense drives the household over the edge. This Argentinian horror film features only four characters stranded in a barren wasteland: Jonathan and Ana share a bed separated from Axel by only insect netting erected to deter the real-world versions of the thousands of flies tattooed as a time-marker on the odd man out. The fourth, a zombie whom Ana names Pythagoras, arrives climatically, when the two men capture him as a fulfillment of a bet. House rules created in transparent attempts to regulate lives in turmoil provide glimpses of self ... until silent, unrequited love breaks character and unravels the thin veil of passion and inescapable pain.
In stories plagued with monsters and philosophy, rules are futile because perception defines action. If a film's connectivity is relative to its humanity, love's universal appeal resides in unconventional stories such as these.