BERLIN (Reuters) - A couple out for a drive in his luxury convertible, with the young woman stretching to feel the wind in her hair, is a scene from a romcom, but what if the woman has the mind of a child and their relationship started with a rape?
This is the situation posited in the Swiss film “Dora or the Sexual Neuroses of Our Parents” shown on Thursday at the Berlin International Film Festival.
It focuses on the consequences of the protective parents of a mentally disabled, 18-year-old only child, Dora, as they take her off medications so she can learn to deal with life, including her own budding sexuality.
“Almost all the taboos are shown in the film but this was not the intention, this was my own discovery,” director Stina Werenfels said of the movie, which was adapted from a play by Lukas Baerfuss.
A main departure from the play is the explicit sex between Dora, convincingly played by Victoria Schulz, and the unsavoury Peter, played by German actor Lars Eidinger, recently seen in “Clouds of Sils Maria”.
Rushing headlong into life, Dora follows Peter into a public toilet, where he rapes her.
The parents discover what has happened and call the police, while seeking medical attention for Dora. But the police find no proof of rape, Dora is of consenting age, and when she spots Peter again, they begin to have sex regularly.
The film looks at the complications that arise from parents wanting as normal a life as possible for Dora, their only child, while suffering from their own marital strains because they are unable to have another child.
Dora throws away her birth control pills and almost immediately gets pregnant, sending her mother, played by Jenny Schily, into an emotional tailspin.
“Is a young woman with mental impairment allowed to have a child?” Werenfels said at a news conference. “People with a disability have the same rights as all other people... and now we enter a new zone. What are the new problems?”
The Hollywood Reporter trade publication in a review said: “Although there are things to admire about this audacious, taboo-challenging effort — like Victoria Schulz’s breakout lead performance and Lukas Strebel’s nervy cinematography — Werenfels and Boris Treyer’s script ... is alternately too elliptical and too on-the-nose to get to the heart of this tricky subject.”
Editing by Crispian Balmer