'In Corpore': Film Review

In Corpore
Courtesy of Nexus Production Group
Last tango in Melbourne, Malta, Berlin and New York.
12/26/2020

Sarah Portelli and Ivan Malekin's anthology-style drama depicts the emotional fractures afflicting several romantic relationships.

Anyone who's ever resorted to sex in an attempt to heal a fractured relationship will find something to relate to in married filmmakers Sarah Portelli and Ivan Malekin's anthology-style drama set in a variety of international locales. Depicting the emotional fissures among four couples (well, at least three-and-a-half), the micro-budgeted In Corpore suffers at times from its improvised dialogue (no screenwriter is credited) and its explicit sex scenes that, while certainly pertaining to the characters and storylines, border on exploitative. But the film, available on demand and in digital formats, features sufficient emotional truth to make it worthwhile viewing for broad-minded audiences.

Divided into four chapters prefaced by onscreen titles identifying the location and the main characters, the film begins in Melbourne, where Julia (Clara Francesca Pagone), a talented sculptress now living in New York City, is visiting her parents. During a reunion dinner also attended by her longtime friend Henri (Frank Fazio), Julia informs them she has gotten married, to a significantly older man who is an art critic for the New York Times (if the Times actually had as many critics as it seems to have in the movies, there would be no unemployment problem for journalists). She also tells her shocked parents that they have an open marriage, and that she's polyamorous. That philosophy soon becomes apparent when she impulsively has sex with Henri in her childhood bedroom.

The next segment, set in Malta, concerns the marriage between Anna (Naomi Said, delivering the film's standout performance) and Manny (Christopher Dingli), which has become seriously strained by her reluctance to have the child he desperately wants. After a long heart-to-heart talk with her best friend in which she confesses her ambivalent feelings and desire to achieve personal goals, Anna initiates a passionate sexual encounter with Manny. But rather than providing temporary healing, it only makes things worse when he reiterates his desire for parenthood immediately afterward and she makes a startling personal confession.

We're then introduced to Rosalie (Sarah Timm) and Milana (Kelsey Gillis), a lesbian couple living together in Berlin whose relationship is threatened by Milana's lucrative side-gig as a prostitute. The increasingly jealous Rosalie struggles to be tolerant but eventually resorts to more extreme methods of conveying her unhappiness. Their subsequent frantic sexual coupling in the shower seems as much an act of desperation as passion.

The final episode, set in New York City, brings things full circle by depicting the ramifications that occur when Julia confesses her sexual liaison to her husband Patrick (Timothy McCown Reynolds), who reacts with unexpected hostility. Displaying his anger through constant sarcasm, he begins to make Julia wonder if their supposedly open relationship has been mostly posturing.

Although the individual segments, each lasting less than a half-hour, aren't particularly strong on their own, they coalesce to form an incisive depiction of how conflicting desires and philosophies can affect relationships. That said, the film, described in its press materials as "a sensual, sex-positive exploration of contemporary relationships," seems more leering than analytical in its frequent graphic sex scenes. (Ensemble member Sarah Timm has made her displeasure known online, complaining that "the treatment and the way the directors and I were talking about In Corpore wasn't as pornographic as it turned out and I am absolutely not committed to this vision.")

The result is that the viewer winds up feeling more than a little voyeuristic — it seems that in art, as well as in life, sex doesn't come without complications.

Production company/distributor: Nexus Production Group (VOD, digital)
Cast: Clara Francesca Pagone, Naomi Said, Kelsey Gillis, Sarah Timm, Frank Fazio, Christopher Dingli, Timothy McCown Reynolds, Amelia Hunter, Simone Alamango, Don Bridges, Naomi Lisner
Directors/producers: Sarah Portelli, Ivan Malekin
Directors of photography: Diego Garcia Gordo, George Ivanoff, Ylenia Kay, William Sheridan
Production designers: Sarah Portelli, Katherine Sultan Erminy
Music: Fabio Guglielmo Anastasi, Raphael Fimm, Gerard Mack
Editor: Ivan Malekin
100 minutes