Mardi Gras Film Festival: Exploring the female gaze in ‘Below Her Mouth’
Love and lust collide in the Mardi Gras Film Festival offering, Below Her Mouth, writes Cec Busby.
Much has been made of recent Canadian film Below her Mouth for its portrayal of lesbian love. Written, directed, produced and crewed by a team of women, the film has a particularly female-centric gaze.
In a world where lesbian films are often driven by male fantasies, a world where anyone of the Sapphic persuasion groans in disbelief at these men’s sugar-coated idea of lesbian sex, Below Her Mouth flips the tired ideas that dominate the genre on their head to deliver something sexy and provocative.
The story revolves around Dallas (Erika Linder), a commitment-phobic young hottie who’s just broken up with her latest conquest and Jasmine (Natalie Krill), a seemingly straight girl with a male partner, who takes a walk on the wild side. With her fiancé away on business, the pair embarks on a passionate fling. The weekend affair forces Jasmine to re-evaluate her sexuality. It’s the familiar lesbian meets straight girl hook-up scenario but retold through fresh eyes.
Director April Mullen says as a lifetime lover of movies she’s never really seen lesbian love depicted in a realistic fashion.
“All the sex I’ve seen on screen has been depicted through a male perspective,” she says.
With Below Her Mouth she really wanted to take a fresh approach to the lesbian genre and look at it from a female-gaze, to do this she looked to her own experience.
“I wanted more eye contact, I want more subtlety, I wanted the scenes to be about breathing or brushing away an eyelash on a cheek. Those are the things that make an impact and make me want to be intimate with another human being.”
Not that she shied away from the sex scenes. Indeed Below Her Mouth has some of the most sexually explicit scenes in any lesbian film to date. Co-stars Erica Liner and Natalie Krill bravely strip off, don strap-ons and fellate for the camera.
Mullens says the resulting scenes were an exercise in vulnerability and trust and that to deliver a truthful performance, it was important her actors felt secure.
“It was a scary feeling, but we all felt like we were part of something bigger,” she says. “Telling the story in the most truthful way possible is what it’s all about.”