The AFI-winning scribe behind The Boys is moving to directing with an erotic drama, Embedded.
After 30 years of directing theatre veteran Stephen Sewell, (who was script editor on Andrew Dominik’s award-winning debut feature Chopper) has channelled his creative energies into Sydney shot debut film Embedded, an erotic chamber piece that pits together a couple of strangers who embark in a one-night stand at a hotel that culminates in game of erotic truth or dare.
“I wanted to direct a film that had the same kind of power and focus that I’m able to achieve in theatre,” explains Sewell. “I’ve had a wonderful experience with film, particularly with The Boys [but] I found getting a film of that kind of power incredibly difficult to achieve and so I decided I was going to do it myself.”
Sewell, who was particularly inspired by Bernardo Bertolucci’s controversial 1972 classic Last Tango In Paris and Nagisa Oshima’s In the Realm of the Senses, says that Aussie cinema plays it too safe and conventional, which is the reason why audiences have become disengaged with Australian screen content. This is why he wants to push the boundaries with Embedded.
“I think the experience of the audience in the last few years is that they’ve abandoned Australian films en masse [and that] indicates that they want something else,” he considers. “Australian films tend to be quite prudish and I think Australian culture has great difficulty with eroticism. I’m kind of pushing the aesthetic boundaries with a film that is very focused on character, narrative and story that is inspired both by politics and by eroticism. I think Embedded will startle quite a lot of people.”
Sewell says he worked closely with director-of-photographer Rhiannon Bannenberg and they “had a lot of discussions about ‘what is pornography?’ and ‘what is eroticism?’, and I said to her we want to make a movie that couples are comfortable with and that women are comfortable watching – I don’t want to make a film where women get up and walk out the room because they’re so disturbed by what they see.
“They’re different kinds of eroticism. There’s a tradition of Japanese pornography that has become very influential in western art called shunga, which is more the world of sensuality. In The Realm of the Senses was influenced by shunga and that aesthetic is a kind of play with conceal and reveal through fabric and cloth.”
Embarking on this intimate two-hander were Melbourne actors (and real life couple) Nick Barkla (Blind Company) and Laura Gordon (Face to Face). “Because they’re engaged to be married they didn’t have the slightest hesitation,” reveals Sewell. “They were very excited by the prospect of doing quite extraordinary acting. A lot of the time with film actors there’s not a lot of acting going on so the opportunity to act intricate roles from beginning to end was something that really appealed to both of them.”
Sewell anticipates a mixed response from audiences: “I have no doubt that some people will say Embedded is pornographic but there are people who think any kind if nudity is pornographic. It’s really a political discussion but at the end of the day I don’t care if they call it pornography or not because what I think is at the core of this film is the celebration of sex and sensuality and bodies within a political context celebrating life in a world of death.
“That's finally what the film is about. War, love and death.”
Embedded is currently in post production and will be released in 2015