A couple try the swinging lifestyle in Borders Of Love, a Czech-set drama that premiered at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Hana (Hana Vagnerová) and Petr (Matyáš Řezníček) have a loving relationship that’s tested when they open things up, inspired by friends who evangelize about the experience.
While Hana thrives on exploring her sexuality with other men, the novelty begins to wear off for Petr, and emotions come to a head when one of them breaks their first rule: never see the same person twice.
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The film from Polish-born, Prague-based director Tomasz Wiński, who also co-writes, is an initially involving drama that wears thin in the final act, though performances consistently engage and the shooting style helps to enhance the intimacy.
For this is a couple who record themselves constantly, perhaps obsessively. When Hana loses years of home movies on a broken hard drive, she’s bereft, and they start using their phones to record their conversations and love-making. The loss of this record of their past seems to give Hana an impetus to ring the changes, and a conversation about swingers’ clubs leads to them sharing their fantasies in a convincingly hesitant but excited fashion. Cut to an amusing scene in a bar, when Petr dares Hana to approach a man she’s been eyeing up. When he surprises them by considering the suggestion of a threesome, they’re thrown into a panic — it’s a funny moment that captures the awkwardness and faint terror of dipping one’s toe into the unknown.
Soon, however, they’re acclimatized, and more dark comedy ensues. Petr has sex with a woman while her husband watches, only for a crying baby to interrupt them, and cause an argument about who goes to comfort the child. Scenes like this underline the less glamorous reality of the lifestyle, and there are scenes in a swingers’ club that strike a cautionary note. There’s open erotica, too, although the film’s arresting poster is misleadingly orgiastic: this is more about partner swapping than group sex. It also swerves away from exploring same-sex experiences in the polyamorous community.
There’s a curious scene where a poly group interviews Hana and Petr, deciding whether to invite them into their world. A rant about safe sex feels pointed, but also lands oddly badly with Petr: it’s hard to get on board with a hero who doesn’t believe in getting tested.
Petr’s difficulty in sharing his feelings is part of the plot, but it also hampers one’s enjoyment of the film: it’s a shame when you learn more about a character from the press notes than you did the movie. Apparently Borders Of Love is an attempt to explore honesty — or lack of — in relationships, but it mainly feels like the story of a couple who plunge into an experiment without thinking it through. Still, as such, it’s a thought-provoking watch, and based on the KVIFF audience, it will certainly get people talking.
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