Starring: Antoine Lahaie, Nicolas Maxim Endlicher Director: Drew Lint Country: Germany From Fatal Attraction to Single White Female, films about obsession give us the heebie jeebies. Watching people from a distance, following them round, breaking into their home and sniffing their undergarments; these are not the actions of mentally stable people, but yet we find them fascinating. Every time a celebrity stalking case appears on the news it’s easy to dismiss as a famous person behaving like a princess about his/her privacy, but think about what the reality of it must be like. Every time they turn around, this stranger is there. They have found access into the deepest recesses of their life, wholly uninvited, and there’s little that can be done about it. In the new German movie M/M, this level of obsession is explored on screen once again. Matthew (Lahaie) is a French Canadian who has recently moved to Berlin. Working as a lifeguard at a swimming pool, he sees the handsome Matthias (Endlicher) there, who he follows home. He begins to watch him every day, observing his daily routine and his hookups. Before long, he has his hair cut in an attempt to resemble his obsession, and begins to pose as him online, but when Matthias is suddenly hospitalised, Matthew has the opportunity to actually become the object of his affection. The first half of this film is very much about watching. As we are positioned with Matthew, we don’t really get to see anything of Matthias except the legend the voyeur has built around him. This is almost a dialogue-free film, with the drama coming from the sheer intensity of the pair’s breathing and stares. When dialogue does appear, which is mostly through telephone conversations between Matthew and his mother, it feels like an invasive and unwanted jolt from reality both for him and for us. His whole life has become his obsession, and so it has ours too. The camera is equally obsessed with Matthias too. In a futuristic Ex Machina-style sequence, the young man has his face and body digitally scanned so that they can be digitally reproduced by a 3D printer and preserved forever and we return visually to this archiving of his beauty many times. There is no doubt that he is alarmingly beautiful and the lens positions us as though this kind of obsessive behaviour toward him is only natural; that surely everyone would be entirely consumed by the sheer magnetism of the boy. But once past the watching phase, Matthias’ compliance in his own objectification is almost as terrifying as Matthew’s initial obsession. This is a highly sexualised film that places sex above all else. Sex is both characters’ primary function; there is literally nothing else that either character does. They are avatars, present only to channel sexuality. In terms of characterisation we learn very little about either character, but arguably 80 minutes of smouldering looks, binoculared masturbation and dogged pursuit is not enough to make us feel for either of them. They have lost their humanity and end up feeling like sex-robots, programmed to duel, copulate and repeat. Is this erotic? Sure it is, but is that enough? Not really. The most successful erotica places the viewer inside its sexualised world, but there is literally nothing for us to identify here, leaving it feeling cold and detached.
If you’ve ever watched a Triga video and wondered what it would be like if extended into a dystopian feature film, then M/M is the movie for you. For everyone else, you’ll just want to give Matthew a brew and tell him to chill out.