“Rule 34”, by Julia Murat: the freedom of a woman replaying male fantasies

Simone, played by Sol Miranda, in the film


In the profusion of remarkable works that were gathered in competition, at the Locarno International Film Festival (Switzerland), in 2022, figured Rule 34, the third feature film by Brazilian director Julia Murat, awarded the Golden Leopard. An experimental film, subtle and disturbing, which any feminist would dream of, anxious to embrace the complexity of certain issues (pornography, sex work, etc.), beyond any moral judgement. The title of the film refers to rule 34, known to Internet users, according to which everything that exists has its porn version – an object, a character from a diverted novel, etc.

Simone (Sol Miranda), a young Afro-Brazilian woman, aspiring lawyer, is finishing her law studies. At university, discussions about the flaws in Brazil’s penal system are heated – and exciting. Simone campaigns against violence against women, and notes with horror the difficulty of protecting victims who speak out. But the young lawyer has another life: her desires lead her towards a sado-masochistic sexuality that she assumes. Simone monetizes her services on a porn site, or “performs” her desires with a duo of friends. Ode to fluid sexuality, to the “trouple”, to the possibility of harmony in these potentially dangerous sexual games, each measuring the risks for oneself and one’s partners.

Pleasure and politics of bodies

There is an unexpected sweetness in this chronicle of a Brazilian youth that rhymes pleasure and body politics. But the film also takes on the appearance of a thriller over the ever more advanced experiments carried out by Simone, at the request of a client of the site – the film is prohibited for children under 16 years old. The young woman accepts the proposals as bets, while she is neither physically constrained (being at a distance from this man) nor economically. Something else is at play in this desire to expose her body to danger, which the filmmaker does not try to explain, Rule 34 not playing on the psychological springs of its characters.

Also read the interview: Article reserved for our subscribers Julia Murat: “‘Rule 34’ is a work at the crossroads of sex and politics”

Simone’s nights are no more a plot issue than her days. But it is all the moments of her existence, articulated together, that make up this portrait of a young woman who is just waiting for a match to ignite her. She does not forbid herself anything as long as her actions do not cause harm to others, and the little music of the film is not without resonating with the thought of the libertarian philosopher Ruwen Ogien (1947-2017).

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