Alexe Poukine tackles challenging subjects in her films. Her first feature documentary (Dormir, dormir dans les pierres) focused on the harsh lives of the homeless. In her second full-length documentary That Which Does Not Kill, rape is her subject.
This is a difficult film to watch for both women and men, but Poukine’s approach – to use the (presumably true) story of Ada, a young woman subjected to rape and sexual violence by her boyfriend, as told by other women who have suffered similar experiences – allows a space to explore a subject around which so much fear, taboo, and myth have been constructed.
She seeks to expose the bitter truth of rape – that the cartoon monster we all imagine a rapist to be is often not the case at all. And she includes two men among the cast retelling Ada’s story, both of whom candidly admit that they have forced their desires on partners without consent.
The power of Alexe’s approach is that it takes some while to realise that the women recounting a story of a naïve young college student who finds herself subject to the aggressive approach of a boyfriend she barely knows are acting out roles. The dawning realisation that, though this story is not theirs, they too have been raped, pulls down the curtain of distance between the viewer and the protagonist, forcing self-reflection of the truths of our own lives.
Researchers estimate that as many as 30% of women have been subjected to sexual violence or rape by the time they reach young adulthood, a horrific statistic reflected in official figures of reported rapes. And given the lack of clarity so often found in rape cases, and the ambiguities of sexual relations this is hardly surprising.
She seeks to expose the bitter truth of rape – that the cartoon monster we all imagine a rapist to be is often not the case at all.
Ada’s story is one that initially can appear ambiguous. Her first sexual encounter appears consensual, although she does not quite recall how she moved from a kiss to being naked on a couch as her boyfriend puts on a condom. When she tells him she is a virgin he quickly …
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