Opening 1 Nov 2018
Touch me not is literally about “touching” – oneself and others. “Every fingertip is an eye exploring this new landscape.” The “landscape” here is the human body. The film opens with a penis which fills the screen. Then there is masturbation, sex, pornography, sexual identity, bondage, 38 scenes showing people naked, the sniffing of bed clothes, and long discussions about feelings, intimacy and mother-child relationships. We experience Laura Benson and her callboy in bed, Laura talking about her feelings, and Laura visiting her old father in the hospital. There is a sanatorium for handicapped people such as Christian Bayerlein, who suffers from spinal muscular atrophy and can barely speak or move, but enjoys being touched by his (real-life) partner Grit Uhlemann, who plays a nurse in the sanatorium, and was originally male before changing to a female. They attend a Touch Therapy Workshop, which also includes the non-handicapped, such as Tómas Lemarquis. We see each setting as if we were behind the camera with Adina Pintilie, who sometimes changes places to go in front of the camera herself and become part of the film.
Touch me Not won the Golden Bear award for best film as well as the GWFF Best First Feature Award at the 2018 Berlinale. Opinions here were much more mixed than in former award ceremonies. Although probably all agreed that Pintilie should have received the best first feature award, it was difficult for many to agree with the Golden Bear jury and there were people booing and leaving. Still, others accepted the results, possibly because this is not your usual entertainment. It’s difficult to recommend Touch me Not to anyone who is not specifically interested in innovative film development. One can either be repulsed by the emphasis on sex or one can consider the “artistic” side which is definitely supported by the use of color, or in some cases no color, i.e., white. Music plays a role, confirming certain expectations, sometimes overwhelming and beautiful, sometimes completely silent – i.e., no music. You can often predict the plot based on the music. Also, there is an interactive mix of documentary and fiction; this can’t all be true, or can it? The greatest plus is meeting Christian Bayerlein, a special individual with a positive outlook on life. One will not forget Adina Pintilie’s film quickly and we will look forward to watching her career develop. (Becky Tan)