The Loss of Sexual Innocence (1999)


(director/writer: Mike Figgis; cinematographer: Benoît Delhomme; editor: Matthew Wood; music: Mike Figgis; cast: Julian Sands (Adult Nic), Johanna Torrel (Nic’s Wife), Saffron Burrows (Twins/Italian Woman), Stefano Dionisi (Lucca), Kelly MacDonald (Susan), Gina McKee (Susan’s Mum), Femi Ogumbanjo (Adam), Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (Nic (age 16)), Hanne Klintoe (Eve), John Cowey (Nic (age 5)); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Mike Figgis/Annie Stewart; Sony Pictures Classics; 1999)
“It seems more like a student film turned in as a project assignment.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

British director Mike Figgis’ (“Leaving Las Vegas”) chaotic, non-linear, experimental, episodic film digs into the different life stages of a filmmaker named Nic (Sands), at age 5 in colonial Kenya, at age 12, at age 16 in the swinging London of the ’60s, as a new documentary filmmaker in Tunisia and up to his current life as a film ethnographer. It retells in part the biblical Adam and Eve story and sets that adventure in his childhood home of East Africa. I don’t know what Mike Figgis was thinking when he made this pretentious art flick that seems to have little else going for it but shock value. Through various interconnected sketches we see Friggis’s version of the Garden of Eden, and where twins are separated at birth and then later on are eying each other at an airport without ever meeting. There are raw comments made about Third World countries and the guilt the filmmaker has about its suffering masses (which struck me as so much crocodile tears). Perhaps, to shock viewers, he has a black Adam and a red-headed teen play Eve. Their role is to show how innocent was their sexual curiosity. For all their prancing around in the nude, there was nothing worth noting about them growing up in Kenya.

The theme could read as a child’s sorrow of what is lost, as the filmmaker gradually loses all sense of innocence. If anything Friggis tried too hard to paint his pic about loss of sexual identity and sexual relationships that bring on jealousy, betrayal and possessiveness. Hardly startling pronouncements.

Figgis’s 1960s style of hipster filming, suggests everyone is defined by their sexual experiences. By showing Nic in his loveless marriage with his frigid wife (Johanna Torrel) and his affair with an Italian woman (Saffron Burrows) on a shoot in Tunisia, we are supposed to understand that he’s evolved from that period as a tormented soul craving intimacy. I found Figgis’s attempt at risk-taking dramatics, to be nothing more than a grandstand play at edginess to cover his ass because he didn’t really have anything to say that is worthwhile about relationships that wasn’t shallow. It seems more like a student film turned in as a project assignment than one from a respected filmmaker with Oscar credentials.