Human sexuality is how people experience the erotic and express themselves as sexual beings. Human sexuality plays a major role in everyone’s life. Sexuality is expressed in thoughts, fantasies, desires, behavior, roles and relationships. There are numerous possibilities that can shape one’s human sexuality and many explanations that can help one understand why. The films Bad Education (2004) by Pedro Almodovar and Belle de Jour (1967) by Luis Bunuel both deal with the effects of sin within sexuality. Bunuel goes to the heart of the matter; Almodovar dances around it. Bunuel’s film conveyed how sin can lead to more sin, and eventually to violence or death. Almodovar conveys the allure of being deceived. In both of these films it shows both protagonists, Ignacio and Severine, finally being able to thoroughly enjoy what they have fantasized about. Both films share false identity and self-creation, the willful self-deception and fantasy of falling in love.
Almodovar’s Bad Education takes place in Madrid and in other parts of Northern Spain around 1980. It is the story of two boarding school boys who reunite years later. Ignacio is an actor and screenwriter, and Enrique is a director. Ignacio, who prefers to be called Angel, has written a screenplay which he wants to star in and have Enrique direct. The film would deal with the traumatic experiences and the effects of their education in a Catholic boarding school while under the tutelage of a sexually abusive priest, Father Manolo. Father Manolo, Bad Education’s “villain”, is portrayed as a man weakened by his own compulsions rather than unambiguously evil. After attending his catholic school Ignacio becomes involved in homosexuality, transvestism, drug addiction, blackmail, identity theft, murder, even fratricide. Almodovar shows us the outer surface of being human but he avoids the depths, and the simple truth about the human soul. The memory, desire, identity and deception intertwine in an increasingly tale of revenge. The characters in Bad Education trudge through streams of bright colors but underneath those colors is dark secrets. These colors were used as a vibrant explosion that helped in the dramatic effect of the stories be presented. He also used excellent cinematography to lead his audience into this mysterious, bizarre world where graphic simulation of sexual acts was used. When viewing this film, it is impossible not to get lost in the story played by the characters, because Almodovar builds up extensiveness of the image to where the audience will not notice the dimensions of fiction and reality.
Comparatively, in Belle de Jour was Bunuel’s first foray into the use of color, and he employed it to great effect. From the fall colors displayed in the landscape scenes, to the subtle shades in Severine’s clothing, the contrasts are set. While the world around her explodes in glorious hues, Severine is defined by her couture, if somber, wardrobe of tan, black, and white. As the subject matter is handled very tactfully and without any actual sex scenes; a great deal is left to the imagination, which only serves to heighten the mysteries implicit at every turn in the film. However there is a sense of feeling to be a voyeur into Severine’s secret life; the careful choreography of scenes and camera angles contribute to the uncomfortable sense of intrusion by the viewers. This can be seen during the scenes in which Severine would fantasize, it can be felt as an invasion of privacy seeing her hidden desires.
In addition, the fantasy sequences in Belle de Jour are usually signalled by the sound of carriage bells, but by the end of the film the viewer is no longer able to differentiate between what is another one of Severine’s fantasies and what is reality. Severine Sevigny, the upper-class wife of Pierre, a doctor. She is frigid, virginal, yet seemingly happy enough in her bourgeoisie life and its trappings. She apparently fully realizes and enjoys her sexuality, despite her guilty conscience, exclaiming that she “can’t help it”. Severine is seen throughout the film discovering her sexuality and herself as person. When she was caught by a friend of her and her husband she tells him” I’m lost.” She’s bored with her life and her marriage, needing a “firm hand” to lead her; a need which the madame, Anais, who is obviously attracted to her, almost immediately recognizes.
Furthermore, though Severine was discovering her identity as a person, Ignacio acquired loss of identity. The film within a film prepares us for an act as it poses as Ignacio’s backstory, but turns out to be itself a fiction film. It is an exaggeration of Ignacio’s identity. In the film you can witness loss of identity from Ignacio, he was murdered and his brother, Juan, stole his identity as a person in order to rid of the problems Ignacio brung. The themes of self-actualization, fantasy and sexuality in a world constrained by morality is seen throughout the film. Bad Education utilizes the production schemes, quirky dialogue, ambiguous moral codes and post-feminist politics to create a cinematic space that is more usefully reflexive than his past work. As the film moves toward and comments upon the postmodern “reality” embodied in Ignacio’s development, Almodovar ultimately combines a variety of modern narratives that have shaped Ignacio.
Moreover, In both films we witness deception. Throughout both films the protagonists, Ignacio (Juan) and Severine, lied to the person they cared most about. Severine hid her infidelity from Pierre until a friend in the end tells him of Severine daily lifestyle she had. Meanwhile in Bad Education there were many lies, one of the biggest lies were Juan pretending to be his dead brother Ignacio. Juan lied to many, including us as viewers, the only one that knew the truth of his deceiving ways were Father Manolo.
The movies show different perspectives of sexuality and the desire within one’s fantasy. In both movies the relationship ultimately ends with a loss of a fantasy. Both Severine and Ignacio experience loss of identity in both films and in the end regain their identity. Through these films we witness, loss of identity and deception.
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