Date of Submission
Film and Electronic Arts
Project Advisor 1
The image began with the peep show club. The woman sits underneath bright lights, surrounded by three walls and a one-way mirror. She moves for the eye of a man who seeks to buy intimacy. He sees her through the glass; she sees her reflection, his face unknown.
Lost Connection investigates the sacrifices of public service and the disintegration of intimacy in our contemporary world. In the hope of helping others, what do we lose? I began to explore the power of the gaze within the peep show club and quickly came to question if the experience of being seen inside the peep show club bared any similarities to being seen outside of it. At a closer look, the objectification of the body, the consumption of sexual intimacy, and the act of showing yourself did not seem limited to the view from behind the glass. The life of the quotidian woman, the housewife, the daughter, and/or the professional woman could in fact resemble that of a female worker in a peep show club. The question for me was how and why a woman’s experience as a sexual object could resemble that of a woman on the outside. Thus, I began to explore the power of the gaze in the quotidian female experience in relation to our contemporary consumption of intimacy and sacrifice.
My inspirations include three films that look at the female protagonist and the ways in which she tries to be seen: In Federico Fellini’s Nights of Cabiria, Cabiria abandons her profession as a prostitute in search of true love. She desperately wants to be seen and appreciated for who she is. Séverine, unable to be sexually intimate with her beloved husband, entertains her sexual desires as the prostitute Belle, in Louis Buñuel’s Belle Du Jour. When the immutable order in Chantal Ackerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles is disrupted, Jeanne, a lonely widowed housewife and prostitute furiously tries to set her system back in place in fear of experiencing her emotions. As she loses grasp of her daily rhythm—caring for her son, completing daily chores, running errands and sexually satisfying clients in the afternoon, her obsessive-compulsive behaviors deteriorate and she is no longer able to fight her emotions. The reasons for these women’s actions vary and yet they seem to be irrelevant, because whether for self-affirmation, security or out of pure desperation, we have come to realize that the power and control is held in the gaze, and that the gaze is also closely tied to sexual experience and fulfillment. Whether the gaze placed in the self or the other depends on the character’s needs emotionally and sexually. Jeanne cannot bear the orgasm she experiences with one of her clients and stabs him in the heart; while he is quite literally a victim, she is a victim of her own gaze and her mental break. Séverine seeks satisfaction by selling her body to men in search of herself and Cabiria longs to be loved by a man, in hope of abandoning the sad life she lived as a prostitute. Yet these women’s destinies all are determined by the male role, suggesting greater social and cultural implications of the female role in a patriarchal world. The gaze as related to sexual experience then becomes driven by the power of the man.
The space of the peep show club became a metaphor for living in a world where we, specifically but not solely as women, are at the mercy of the gaze inside and outside the realm of sexual consumption, an industry of plastic intimacy that intoxicates both our culture’s ability to connect and the image of the female body.
While exploring the themes of public service and the growing absence of intimacy in our world, Lost Connection also contemplates who holds the gaze and what happens to those at its mercy. What do we sacrifice in order to be seen? And what do we sacrifice at the cost of being seen in hope of fighting for something larger than the self? Our protagonist, Claire, the daughter of New York mayor, is determined to do good at all costs. Under the spotlight, she and her father have sacrificed their privacy in the name of the greater good. Their work leaves little time for other people and as a result the only human connection they experience is with each other. While Claire believes in her father and their work, we notice that her sense of purpose is placed in helping others, and also lies very heavily in the gaze of her father. When Claire’s identity is pierced by a traumatizing experience of being mugged by another woman, a peep show worker her age, and then shattered by the news of her father’s horrendous sex scandal, she begins to unravel. What begins as Claire’s campaign for progress turns into a harsh exploration of the disintegration of intimacy within her life. Desperate rediscover herself Claire is determined to restore her relationship with her father and dedicates herself to fighting for him during this public turmoil. Despite his betrayal, Claire chooses to nurture their relationship over her grief, in hope of restoring the person she thought she was. However, as Claire starts to experience the world differently after she is mugged and her father’s scandal is exposed, we see her start to separate from the external gaze and begin to fight for her internal gaze. Her reflection becomes unfamiliar and though she fears letting go of what she once believed in, she is also provoked by the temptation of finding intimacy within herself and with others in unfamiliar ways. Lost Connection examines the threats we face when on the brink of losing oneself and what it takes to find balance between the sacrifices we want to make and the intimacy we long to find.
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Bonami, Sofia, "Lost Connection" (2012). Senior Projects Spring 2012. 183.