One of our favorite films of the year hits theaters early '14 via Variance Films. Here are two takes on the film from Ben Siler & Erin Scherer.
By Ben Siler Dec. 15th, 2013
It Felt Like Love is a dire movie, but energetically so. Following a fourteen year old’s investigation of sex, the pace is languid, the sense of perspective remote. The lead is most often shown studying people from afar... Her face is quiet and delicate, her actions sledgehammer-like. The investigation varies from (I think I didn’t imagine this: like many things, it involved two separate shots and the impression between them) trying to get her dog to stimulate her to attempting to seduce adult men by repeating things she heard her older friend say. In a Q&A director Eliza Hittman specified she wanted Lila (Gina Piersanti) to always be “looking at things other than faces, like biceps and arms” and that we would see them from her perspective, and never her from anyone else’s. She said that the objectification of the lead was a component she wanted to remove from “young women in trouble” movies, and that she wanted to make a movie about youth in Brooklyn but concern areas of the borough less often seen.
Watch the trailer below...
By Erin Scherer Dec. 15th, 2013
It’s rare to find a film that explores the sexuality of a teenage girl without the filter of the patriarchal gaze. In more mainstream portrayals of teenage girls (or women in general), their interest in sex is the result of peer pressure (“Thirteen”), or they use sex as a ruse for romance. The approach “It Felt Like Love" takes reminds me of a quote from a book I read earlier this year, Hard to Get by Leslie Bell: "Vulnerability is the underbelly of desire."
14-year-old Lila (Gina Piersanti) is trying to get through a sweltering summer in working class Brooklyn. Lila’s mother passed away long ago, and Lila’s father doesn’t appear to be very involved with her life. This leaves Lila to confide in a younger neighbor who lives in the building next door, and her best friend, Chiara (Giovanna Salimeni). Envious of Chiara’s sexual sophistication, Lila sets out to have a sexual experience of her own. Through Chiara, she meets Sammy (Ronen Rubenstein), and places her hopes of losing her virginity on him. Lila’s pursuit of Sammy takes her to dark places: seedy pool halls, booze-soaked parties, and to the doctor’s office, where she attempts to get birth control. Ultimately, Lila’s quest for sexual sophistication leads to a traumatic culmination, leaving her sad and confused.
Lila is portrayed as innocent, yet genuinely curious about sex. A long take early in the film is telling: it shows a sweet-faced Lila, covered in sunblock, watching Chiara engage affectionately with her boyfriend. Following the film’s grievous climax, Lila is empathized with rather than shamed. It’s as if the camera functions as another friend.
Scenes where Lila is rehearsing a dance routine with friends, or riding a bus with loud, hip hop music blasting from IPods capture mood, time, and space in a way only someone who lives in the region can capture it. I saw this film at a sparsely attended screening at the Woodstock Film Festival. Later that night, at the festival’s opening night party, I had a chance to speak with the film’s director, Eliza Hittman. Hittman, who grew up in New York City, said that while these were not her experiences, she had known other girls who had been through similar experiences to Lila.
I came away from "It Felt Like Love" hoping that the end would just be a bad experience, and not the beginning of a downward spiral, as such experiences can often be. One anticipates Lila having the strength to pick up the pieces, move forward, and find a way to cultivate a healthy sexual attitude on her own terms.