The Burning Plain, which is directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu's writer, Guillermo Arriaga (he wrote Amores Perros, 21 Grams, and Babel), opens with a sequence that presents us with the target of the film's attack—the family. After passionless sex with a man who, we later learn, is a chef at her fancy seaside restaurant, Sylvia (Charlize Theron) rises from the sheet-messy bed and walks to an ugly window. She is naked and her flesh is as cold as the morning light. She opens the curtain, looks out the window, and sees low-hanging clouds, dreary drizzle, downtown Portland, and a family (mother and children) walking down a path in a city park. The children and mother look up and see raw nakedness—but Sylvia's body is not sexy or sensual but scornful. Only the hand of the horniest pervert in the park could extract a drop of pleasure from that icy vision at the top of the town house. Sylvia makes no effort to move away from the window or attempt to cover her privates, but instead viciously intensifies the beam of her nakedness on the family. The mother is finally forced to cover the eyes of the vulnerable children. This is not an act of indecency (like a flasher in a raincoat) but an act of cruelty that has its roots deep within the character. The film's plot is essentially a journey to that root, that moment in the past when Sylvia, a girl, saw something unspeakable. From that moment on, she would hate the family, men, and sex, which, as the French philosopher pointed out in the first volume of The History of Sexuality, has its birthplace and early development within the closed circle of the family. Ultimately, The Burning Plain, which is as measured and lugubrious as 21 Grams, defends an extramarital affair and denounces two marriages. The affair is filled with love, and the marriages are empty (on one side, the wife is a drunk; on the other side, the husband is impotent). The director's point? The family can only bring death to sex. recommended

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