Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Lost Key

A lot of people don't know this, but the Jewish scriptures, the Torah and the Talmud, talk a lot about sex. You don't have to think about it for very long to realize: Of course they would: They are the guiding knowledge for the oldest extant religion on earth. Sex probably would come up some time in the past 5,000 years. I think I first heard about this in the '90s, when I ran across some story about a man being required by rabbinical decree to have sex with his wife (whom he'd been neglecting) at least three times a week.

It's one thing to acknowledge this, of course, and another thing to make a movie about it and send it around the art houses of Los Angeles. We're pretty closed-minded out here. This is one of those movies made to be buried in obscurity. Seriously, this has 20 ratings on IMDB, with one 45+ age woman giving it 10, and the average being 4.2. On Rotten Tomatoes, it's got a total of two critic ratings, one positive, one negative, and is 0 for 5 with the audience.


The Boy and I really enjoyed it. But then, I don't think we felt threatened or ordered around as I imagine some folks must have felt.

The premise of the film is that there is a higher purpose for sexual intimacy beyond pleasure, and outside of procreation, which is a physical and spiritual oneness, a transcendence beyond the mere carnal. This is perhaps unique to Western religions (though surely not Eastern), but there's a catch.

There were several times where I leaned over to The Boy and whispered "homophobia!" and "transphobia!" and "gender roles!" in humor, but of course you're not going to dig up ancient Jewish traditions and have them be just groovy with the perversity of modern society.

So, this is about a man and a woman. And more than that, the man has to be A Man and the woman has to be A Woman. There has to be a lot of "preparation" prior to "intimacy". There aren't prohibitions on activities per se, except for a few (which are never mentioned), but the "main event" is to be the Main Event, with none of your onanism or fancy acrobatics.

I enjoyed the subversiveness of it. In this tradition, to achieve transcendence (essentially) through intimacy, is to be completely naked, in the dark, in a room dedicated to the purpose, with the man on top and the woman on the bottom. This is so that each is facing their "source", Man being drawn from the earth and Woman from the Man.

The dark is so that you're not distracted by looking.

This stuff is revealed in a series of interviews between Rabbi Manis Friedman and various couples, of varying degrees of conviction regarding the whole process. I confess my favorite was the most dubious of couples. The rabbi says "No TVs in the bedroom" and they say "We have a TV in the bedroom. We use it to watch porn during sex."

And so it goes, with each suggested prohibition. But the Rabbi never says "you can't", he just says that "you won't achieve this oneness that way".

It's like you're inviting God in, but most people are probably a bit conflicted and confused about the relationship between God and sex. So much so, most people probably never think of sex beyond the pleasure and procreation (and mostly in terms of avoiding procreation).

Another nugget that might make a lot of people uncomfortable: When you're married, you've married your soul mate. When you divorce, you're divorcing your soul mate. But then, should you remarry, that person is just as much your soul mate as your first spouse.

I don't consider Rabbi Friedman infallible, and I actually always have this split reaction when someone talks about spiritual "events": Might be a good thing, might be a bad thing, depending on where it comes from, you know?

I guess some people were also confused thinking this was a "how to", but I don't think it was meant that way at all. I think it was meant more as a "Well, this is possible, did you even know?" You know how some people get irritated when they hear a Christian say "Did you know Jesus died for your sins?" Well, imagine the level of resentment they'd feel if they heard "Did you know you're missing out on the greatest act of sex?"


Well, look truth is truth, and it's not something you should resent, even if you didn't know it. So maybe keep an open mind, and enjoy an interesting look at life.

The director Ricardo Adler is a man who seems to have found something more meaningful in these teachings, motivating him to make the film. (Co-directors Ricardo Kora, Belen Orsini.)

Oh, yeah, the three point scale:

1. Subject matter? Hell, yeah, it's interesting. It's sex. Sex is supposed to sell!

2. Technique? Run of the mill. Interviews, dialogues, none of those floating, freeze-framed, 3Dized photographs the documentary directors love so well these days, but this isn't really a historical documentary.

3. Bias? Sure. It's biased that the whole premise isn't complete nonsense and that there might be something tucked away in those old Jewish scrolls.

It might've been more interesting to hear a number of rabbis debating the best way to achieve this heightened state (and this would be a good prequel to that), but for what it was, it was good.

And easily the most transgressive film I've seen in a while.

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