All About Anna (2010)
What is the difference between "art" and "porn"? It's a question that creates heated discussion and causes much vexation to censors around the world. Perhaps it's only a matter of lighting - or the opinion of the viewer. Lately it seems that sexually explicit material can only be considered "art" if the audience can't possibly get off on it. Positive depictions of sex and sexuality still tend to be lumped into the "porn" basket, thereby to be banned and censored at will.
All About Anna, a film produced by Lars Von Trier's Danish production company, ignores all that and boldly considers itself to be art, even though it contains explicit sex. The movie unashamedly looks at sex within the context of relationships and refuses to cut away or fade to black when the fucking starts. Indeed, it lingers and permits the viewer to become aroused, even as the story progresses. It markets itself as a mainstream film, even though it sits happily on the shelf of your average adult store. It's an in-between product; one that refuses to be pigeonholed. It shows us that art and porn can happily co-exist and its existence makes me wonder why it doesn't happen more often.
All About Anna tells the story of a young Danish woman who is heartbroken when Johan, the love of her life, abandons her. She resolves to get on with her life and enjoy sex without attachments. And yet when Johan, returns after five years, she finds herself yearning for him. Determined to remain independent, she throws herself into her work... but love will always find a way.
It's an engaging and fun movie that is very easy to watch. And the wonderful thing about this film is that it offers sex scenes with context. The sex isn't the main point of the film but every pairing is essential for character development and forward movement of the plot. There's real emotion and connection in every scene; you care about the reasons behind the sex, even as you are being turned on by it.
Many of the scenes are short and don't follow the standard rules of porn. There are numerous hardcore shots but they aren't gratuitous or endless. Indeed, we don't see any female open-crotch shots at all. Instead of the usual porn cliches, we see people having sex as they would in real life, with the added benefit of emotional authenticity. The scenes between Anna and Johan have a poignancy and intimacy that you don't often see in porn and that makes them more passionate and erotic.
Part of the reason this film hits its sexual and emotional mark is Gry Bay, the mainstream actress who plays Anna. This was her first explicit role and she does an excellent job of making us believe in Anna's character - and her sexual pleasure. The others are also good, except perhaps for Eileen Daly, whose over-the-top performance as Anna's flatmate can become a bit grating. Classically trained British actor Mark Stevens who plays Johan is also wonderful, partly because he’s a gorgeous, well-built blond hunk but also because he broods very well on screen.
The film itself isn't a masterpiece of cinematography. Most of the lighting is natural and there's a lot of handheld camera work. The sets and costumes are also fairly everyday. This is because the avant-garde filmmakers adhere to the Dogme 95 rules which seek to create film without artifice.
All About Anna is the work of a production company called Puzzy Power - filmmakers who set out to create erotic movies for women. They released a manifesto which stated their goals in creating porn movies for women: they must have a plot, the sex must have a purpose, the visual style must embrace the whole body, not just the genitals and “feelings, passions, sensuality, intimacy, and the lead-up must be emphasised…” They also rejected standard porn film clichés such as the facial cumshot or forced fellatio. Puzzy Power (later Innocent Pictures) released three female-friendly films: Constance (1998), Pink Prison (2001) and All About Anna (2004).I think their final film shows that they thoroughly succeeded in their goals. I really enjoyed watching it on both a cerebral and physical level and I recommend it to anyone who wants to see an engaging and erotic film.
Starring: Gry Bay, Mark Stevens, Eileen Daly, Thomas Raft, Ovidie, Morten Schelbech, Thomas Lundy
Directed by Jessica Nilsson
* I reviewed this film courtesy of Good Vibrations.
Good Vibrations: DVD or Download
You'll find an longer review of All About Anna at For The Girls.
Reviewed October 2010