During casting sessions, young women from Copenhagen talk candidly about their sexual experiences and frustrations.
Danish directors Mette Carla Albrechtsen (on the picture left) and Lea Glob have revealed that their ground-breaking new documentary Venus (in which young women from Copenhagen speak frankly on camera about their sexual experiences and fantasies) is to spawn a book – and there may also be a sequel.
The book, also to be called Venus, will be published by Gyldendal in the spring at around the same time as the film is released in cinemas on March 8.
The filmmakers are now lobbying for the material to be made available in Danish schools. "That was something we wanted. This film is the material we were missing when we were growing up," Albrechtsen comments. "If you're asking where the film came from, it comes from a very personal and deep need to understand ourselves and put words on something so big, but which wasn't spoken about when we were growing up." The title 'Venus' comes from the filmmakers' desire to "throw up the ideal of the woman against the cultural history designed by men."
When the two directors were growing up, they remember that sex education focused on how to avoid pregnancy and disease. "There was no language for the pleasurable parts," Albrechtsen said. "We're very liberated in terms of porn. You can say anything. There is no censorship, but when it comes to talking about sexuality with emotions, it doesn't exist. People get uncomfortable."
This point is echoed by Glob. "We [in Denmark] are supposedly liberated, but our language about sexuality is so limited," the co-director says. When she was in her early twenties, Glob read erotic literature by Henry Miller. "Everybody told me he was quite sexist. When I read the book, it was from the male perspective. This discrepancy was something we really wanted to investigate."
Glob also reflected on whether differences between male and female sexuality have been exaggerated. "With men and women, I always thought there was such a big difference between male and female sexuality, but making this film and showing it to men, I have got a different perspective," she says. "Now, I really don't think there is so much difference between male and female sexuality."
Venus (a world premiere in First Appearance) was shot in Albrechtsen's apartment. The interviewees would arrive in groups of between five and eight. They'd sit in the kitchen together, discussing sexuality and desire. Then, one by one, they'd be called into the living room to be interviewed. Over one hundred applicants – primarily young, well-educated women from Copenhagen – signed up to be filmed. Sixty were filmed, with twenty to twenty-five making it into the final edit.
They share very intimate stories and memories. The filmmakers gave them the opportunity to have any testimony they were uncomfortable with removed from the documentary. Several regretted revealing the number of people they had slept with but, beyond this, demanded few changes. They realised that by speaking honestly, they would be helping other women. The filmmakers had very little information in advance about their subjects, and didn't know whether or not they were heterosexual.
"You could shoot this film in the UK or shoot it in Brazil and it would be different, but a lot of it would be the same," Albrechtsen says. She also gives qualified approval to Lars Von Trier's Nymphomaniac, a fictional film which also explores female sexuality. "I was kind of surprised that he knew a lot. Some of it I could definitely relate to. I appreciated that he actually took it very far and that he wouldn't protect the woman so much, but that he would make her go all the way in her desire."
Photo: Ruud Jonkers