“It is unforgivable to have romanticized a systematic rape,” wrote actor and director Paco León on his Instagram account. He refers to a scene from the film Kiki, el amor se hace, which he shot in 2016 and which intertwined several stories of sexual philias. The part in question shows a man who drugs his wife to have sex, “of course without her consent,” the filmmaker qualifies. “I’m very sorry I didn’t have the sensitivity at the time to deal with the subject and have frivolized with it,” continues León.
Paco León’s film is a remake of the Australian The Little Death (2014), directed by debutant Josh Lawson. Spanish critics differentiated it from that film by exploiting a more comic and extravagant profile. Although, in the end, they were about the same thing: the sexual paraphilias of a series of strangers. In fact, Lawson’s film also includes several scenes around the imaginary of rape.
“One night, as she clumsily climbs into bed, Maeve informs Paul that she’d like him to rape her, a misunderstanding that is resolved with awkward laughter. It’s her fantasy, she explains to him, but she wouldn’t want to know for sure that it’s Paul if or when it actually happens. The misguided notion of rape as a source of sexual pleasure, rather than an act of aggression, consistently taints this plot line,” wrote critic Christy Lemire on Roger Ebert’s prestigious film website, where the film was panned.
In Spain, critics almost unanimously applauded Paco León and his Kiki, el amor se hace. It was nominated for four Goya awards, including Best Adapted Screenplay, although in the end it didn’t win any of them. One of the few reviews that pointed out the shadows of the film was the one written by journalist Desirée de Fez for the newspaper El Español.
“Still, Kiki, Love is Made has its problems,” the critic acknowledges. “Some are minor, like the histrionic writing of characters and dialogue. Others are more serious. This is the case of the story of the plastic surgeon who gives life to Luis Bermejo. There’s no place to take it. The humor, more unfortunate than black, does not work and the resolution of the story is very dubious. The romantic touch that comes so well to the rest of the stories is a kick to this one”.
Five years later, the director realizes his mistake. “It’s not easy to admit that you screwed up in the past now that it doesn’t matter. But it does come to the point. That we all have a responsibility with what we do and the values we transmit. And that with the best of intentions you realize that you are also collaborating with the rape culture”, expresses Paco León in his post.
It is not the first time that a cultural product reflects sexual violence as romantic. In some, rape acts as a plot line to show the horror and the consequences it produces in the victims; but sometimes these scenes are trivialized or added only as a morbid element (such as the rapes in Game of Thrones that in the original story were consensual sex). The latter is the case in Kiki, love is made. “I’m ashamed of it and I thank the people who brought it to my attention. I promise to keep working and learning,” concludes León.
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