Gilli, actress name: Sivan Levy
(Photo : Photo Credit: Shark de Mayo)
When conversing about the sexual exploitation of woman in male-dominated societies, the female sex is usually victimized while the male sex is relegated to the status of human rights violator. Cinematic depictions of this dynamic generally ignore the possibilities of subverting this perception and the result is a universally one-side viewpoint. Set in Israel, Johnathon Garfunkel's "Six Acts" seeks to shake up this conversation and offer a differing view in which neither sex is completely at fault for the exploitation.
Gili wants to make friends at her new school so she sends pictures to Omri, the most popular guy at school. Omri, who is out with some friends, decides to invite Gili for some fun and has her engage in sexual behavior with his best friend. From there, Gili slowly builds a reputation for being easy and the intensity of the sexual acts she becomes engaged with escalate throughout the remainder of the film.
The character of Gili is a fascinating creation and Silvan Levy delivers a remarkable performance that enables the viewer to enter into her complex mind. Gili seeks out the men at every turn and despite showing resistance toward some of the sexual activity, she ultimately gives in upon hearing a compliment about her attractiveness and desirability. However, none of the sexual acts are pleasing to her or would even be pleasing to her under more ideal or romantic circumstances. She never seems to enjoy them, but continues coming back for more. Her attire throughout the film becomes more indicative of a prostitute than a high school girl; at one point she wears a shirt that leaves her waist completely bare and wears no undergarments.
More importantly, she boasts openly about her sexual relations and claims to be utilizing the men for her own pleasure. Some viewers might look at this and claim that she is bluffing, but on some level, there is certainly some reason to this seeming madness. Gili's relationship with her family is virtually ignored in the film mainly because she barely has one. Gili explains that her father has not talked to her in years and an early scene shows her fighting viciously with her mother. More importantly, when she gets dropped at home, she directs people to the wealthier buildings across the street, almost as if she were ashamed of her roots. It is certainly possible that the sex gets rid of her loneliness and her sense of being unimportant to those she loves the most; even if the sex establishes her as an object, she is useful and wanted by others in some capacity.
Garfunkel does not pin everything on Gili however. As much as he does not want to play the sympathy card with her, it is difficult to ignore the other things at work in the film. The director is upfront about the fact that this society, as portrayed in the film, is male dominated and has minimal respect for woman. During a party, Omri's father checks out pictures of girls that his son was seeing during a vacation; he even makes sexual comments about them. All the while, his wife sits across the table and listens quietly. Though it is clear that she is uncomfortable, she says nothing. In an earlier scene, Omri's 13-year old brother and his friends have a similar conversation. His mother listens in from the office, but closes the door instead of acting on her child's grotesque dialogue. These instances reveal deeper implications about Gili's actions. Her lack of resistant toward the sexual domination by her male counterparts may not be act of destruction or fulfillment at all - Gili may simply be giving in because she feels that it is expected socially.
Levy carries the film with a performance that hinges on an internal battle for control. Her voice has a light, almost faint quality that emphasizes her debility and even as she walks she has a slouch. She keeps calm throughout but there are several moments where it seems like she breakdown. Even when she lets loose, a sense of shame takes over and she places the emotions in check.
Most of the film takes place during the night and the cinematography only emphasizes the grimy, dark world that these characters inhabit. One of most striking images in the film takes place in the nightclub when Gili runs to the bathroom. The mirror in front of her has five separate partitions and distorts her face into five pieces; it emphasizes the increasing defilement of Gili's body and person. The film utilizes a tremendous amount of handicam shots mixed in with shallow-focus close-ups that make the viewing experience jarring and claustrophobic.
Despite the intense sexual acts portrayed on screen, Garfunkel never indulges in overly grotesque imagery. Some might object, but those strong enough to sit through are in for an intense, immersive experience that will linger in conversations and debates long after. "Six Acts" is far and away one of the best films at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival.
It screens on April 18, 19, 21 and 25.