The action starts in a busy night club somewhere in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. Anna (Karin Rask) works as a pick-up artist for awkward men unable to lure women on their own. She talks to them through an invisible earpiece, sometimes aided by a hidden camera on their lapel. She gives them detailed instructions on how to seduce women from the moment they first make eye contact all the way to ejaculation. The information is very comprehensive: “now go from the big labia to the perineum”, “lick it like a cat drinking milk”, and so on. You will hear some of the most graphic descriptions of sex coming from the mouth of a female movie character since Alma (Bibi Andersson) in Ingmar Bergman’s Persona (1966). There are no sexually explicit images to match the lewd audio guidance. Comic relief is provided by perplexed passengers and passersby accidentally hearing the bizarre communication.
From the club, we promptly move to Tallinn Airport, where the most dramatic events take place. These twists and turns of fate could have an impact on the clients as well as on Anna herself, as our protagonist’s private life gets caught up in her unusual business. Contrary to what the film title may suggest, this movie is not a reflection on how to negotiate sex without breaching the limits of what’s acceptable and the law.It never interrogates the motives and the interests of the very pragmatic Anna and her clients. Instead, The Limits of Consent is a psychosexual thriller designed to intrigue and perhaps even titillate viewers. The spicy dialogues will keep you hooked, even if the uneven script makes the story a little difficult to follow.
The twists could take viewers to a different country (Germany), a different language (Russian), or even a different colour palette (black-and-white). Depending on the choices made, the movie may last as little as 30 minutes, leaving plenty of time to watch multiple endings (I watched three different denouements at the cinema, as the moderators returned to the beginning of the story and allowed audiences to pick a different outcome). At home, the options are more numerous.
The Limits of Consent is an interactive movie with nine possible endings. Audiences are asked to make simple decisions with at least two different outcomes (such as: “should Anna stay or go?”, and “should she pick the rugged man or the suited man?”). This could work well online as viewers can easily click on their preferred option from the comfort of their seat, sofa or bed. The dynamics are a little awkward inside the cinema, with a moderator having to ask people to put their hands up inside a dark theatre. The enthusiastic crowds announced their choice by shouting instead, and it was often difficult to say whether that was a democratic vote (the director said that Estonian crowds are a lot quieter than the Catalonian ones). Presumably, it would be a lot more difficult to show this movie on television, where voting would have to be done likely by telephone (this would be onerous and time-consuming). Overall, an interesting experiment that needs to overcome a few teething issues.
The Limits of Consent is in Competition at the REC Tarragona International Film Festival. It premiered one year ago at the 26th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. Michael Keerdo-Dawson is a British filmmaker based in Tallinn.