Like Ossessione, Poison, Y tu mamá también, and so many other queer films before it, Intrinsic Moral Evil explores the liminal space between male homosocial behavior and gay eroticism, and how that space has affected all kinds of young men. Unlike so many other films, however, Intrinsic Moral Evil uses dance and the body to tell the story of a young man’s entrance into his sexual being. The film has no dialogue or plot, per se. Instead, we see two young men dance together, maybe fighting (or something else?), and then a third androgynous dancer enters, and the three dance together.
Even without dialogue, however, the film’s narrative arc is quite clear. A young man, perhaps queer, attempts to engage in the semi-violent, jocular behaviors so often found in male adolescence. But the constant homosocial touch is also something else: a punch turns into a caress and wrestling turns into an embrace. When the new dancer arrives, the two boys fight for this dancer’s attentions, and a burgeoning love story begins.
The major concern with filming a performance is whether or not the camera adds anything to work. Can we think about Intrinsic Moral Evil as a film, or is the camera only the vessel through which we are able to view the performance? Thankfully, although the dance appears more apt for the stage than the screen, the film uses the camera quite impressively here. The camerawork is significant without being overwhelming, the film juxtaposes long shots of the dance sequences with intimate close-ups. It is through these close-ups that the film raises questions of intent and identity; as each jab lingers too long, the close camera shows a caress. While the motivations of the young men remain unclear (although, do we ever know the motives of adolescents? Do adolescents have motivations or are they simply pure id?), the acts are beautiful, erotic, and moving. Similarly, the camera’s shifts between circular motion and absolute stillness give the film a breathless, sexy beauty to the dance sequences. Clearly, this is the emotional space where love emerges. While premiere ballet has long shown love blooming though dance, we rarely see this love occur amidst such gender ambiguity. The empty stage set, classical piano, and stark milieu only serve to underscore the delicate beauty and raw sensuality of dance, while minimizing the significance of the genders of the persons involved. By giving its audience such a traditional version of beauty and grace but undermining traditional gender norms, the film calls into question the idea of same-sex love as an “intrinsic moral evil.”