After attending a screening of Hagar Ben Asher’s feature debut “The Slut” (also known as “Hanotenet” in its native Israel) at the Israeli Film Festival here in Melbourne, I couldn’t help but notice the unanimously negative comments from the audience as they left the cinema and spilled through the foyer and onto the street. Complaints about the lack of dialogue, how depressing it all was, the lack of sincerity in the realtionship between the two main adult characters, and just how generally excrutiating it all was—that’s what I heard.
I think much of this negativity can be traced to the highly prudish nature of my fellow audience members. Oh, you don’t believe me? Allow me to explain. I was one of the last people into the cinema, a crowd of more than 50 people. I bought my ticket and said to the lady at the counter “May I please have one ticket to see The Slut?” The lady smiled and said “You’re the first person to ask for the film by its name”. Can you believe that? These people were going to see a film called “The Slut” and they couldn’t bring themselves to say this litle four-lettered word! I’m guessing they said “one ticket to the 9pm session” or something similar. So if they are too delicate to say “slut” then what did they expect from the film? How did they think it would not upset them?
Writer-director-actress Hagar Ben Asher pushes the boundaries in this film, dealing with sexual taboos in a film more suggestive than explicit in both its approach to its themes and depictions of sexual interaction.
Complaints about the film’s relative lack of talking should be taken with a gigantic grain of salt. Some films have zero dialogue but are still magical to behold. If you want a ceaseless string of words, perhaps read a book or listen to the radio. The film is littered with captivating visuals and is clearly reliant upon subtle camerawork and symbolism to convey its themes.
The film is dark by design, it is obviously not meant to be a happy film. Hagar Ben Asher handles numerous issues pertaining to human sexuality, such as polygamy, monogamy and their consequences in an intelligent manner. The film does not judge but instead allows the audience to make its own judgements.
The film is rather erotic but it is certainly not an exploitation film. It is a confronting piece of work that goes beneath the surface of human sexuality.
The cinema where I saw this film was in an upper middle class/bourgeois neighbourhood (North Brighton—my fellow Melbourne folk shall know its reputation well). A lot of Jewish folks were in attendance as well as some non-Jewish folk like myself, but I dare say Jewish upbringing would have little to do with causing one to be prejudiced against this movie (and if you were intensely conservative/orthodox then you wouldn’t be anywhere near the film in the first place). But I believe that challenging works of film do bring out people’s limitations. I think that besides the ultra-conservative nature of some viewers, many struggled to interpret a film that demanded its audience to think and use its imagination.
Speaking for myself, I found “The Slut” to be an excellent slice of cinema. It sits just below 5.4 on IMDB at the time of writing and is not flattered by its score at MUBI. I read one review from Variety that was not especially kind to the movie, and given the negativity of my fellow audiences members, I’ve not felt much admiration for Hagar Ben Asher’s feature length movie. I do hope this film is picked up at the Jewish Film Festival later this year. I believe it deserves a chance. If anyone else has seen this movie, please post your thoughts here.
Surely I am not the only one here who has seen “The Slut”. Please don’t tell me that you avoided it because you were too embarrassed to say the title to the person at the box office!
I am going to watch this film next week and will post my review
It’s a great film, albeit the sort of thing most folks won’t “get”.
It really upset the toffy-nosed crowd at the art deco cinema where I saw it.
One couple of people whined about how the relationship between the two main characters wasn’t “authentic” looking. But I would say that was somewhat the point. The woman what is known as a jezebel and all her relationships seem to have an air of emotional detachment.
Personally, I think a lot of them hated the film for “that” scene (you’ll know which one, I shan’t spoil it) but it involved something that people do not often discuss in “polite” circles.
The film was wasted on them.