Love Me Not
Ingrid García Jonsson, Francesc Orella, Lola Dueñas, Oliver Laxe
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…engages as much as it frustrates.
Directed by Lluís Miñarro, Love Me Not is a modern(ish) interpretation of Oscar Wilde’s Salome; itself being an interpretation of the tale of John the Baptist from that popular religious text, The Bible.
The year is 2006, and at an army base in the middle of the desert, the terrorist Yokanaan is being held in maximum security. Dubbed a prophet by some, Yokanaan’s most significant crimes appear to be nothing more than cheering on the coming of a red moon. It’s enough for corrupt commander, Antipas (Francesc Orella), to keep him out of the picture. Antipas’ stepdaughter, Salome (Ingrid Garcia-Jonsson), is intrigued by Yokanaan, to the point of sexual fascination. A soldier herself, there doesn’t appear to be a man she hasn’t met who she can’t curry favour from. When Yokanaan spurs her advances, however, Salome contemplates ways to ensure that she will kiss his red lips.
Miñarro has crafted film that a tale that will reward those willing to dig deep beneath the pretext to find something to chew on. Take, for example, soldiers Hiroshima (Luis Alberti) and Nagasaki (Fausto Alzati) who bicker daily about their captive. Their flirtatious fighting and polar opposite reactions on the best way to treat Yokanaan are symbolic of the philosophy of war. Are you fighting a faceless enemy who only wants to see you dead? Or should you consider that there’s another human staring down the barrel of your gun?
In terms of performances, Garcia-Jonsson is at the top of the heap; swinging easily between Salome’s sultry nature which has captured the heart of many a man, and her shark eyed determination to rip out of the heart of many a man. She’s the glue that binds the film.
And yet, with all these ticks in the positive column, there’s just something that doesn’t quite gel. Despite the Iraqi sun and the bubbling sexuality threatening to burst out at any moment, Love Me Not feels cold and standoffish. And some moments seem too obvious in a film that craves dissection; for example, Yokanaan’s distinct orange jumpsuit which quickly brings up memories of Guantanamo Bay. In the film’s final moments, Love Me Not throws itself open to a Shakespearean ending wherein the whole affair could be flights of fancy and merely symbolic of something altogether more interesting. And when that moment comes, the film is annoyngly taken away from you. A deliberate trick by its director, of course.
A polarising film, Love Me Not engages as much as it frustrates. If you know your literature, then you’ll know where this is all leading to and will likely be surprised that, despite the tale being dropped into the Iraq war, Miñarro takes it to its logical bloody ending. This time with added Mexican drag shows.