9 1/2 Weeks (1986) Film Review

Poster of 9 1/2 Weeks - Protagonists kissing with caption "they broke every rule"

9 1/2 weeks- Please be warned – this review contains spoilers.

9 1/2 weeks has been one of my favourite films for many years and I believe that it never received the credit it deserves. The story appears to be seen as titillation at best and abuse at worst – and neither perceptions do this film justice.

I see it as one of the most beautiful films about wishful thinking that has ever been made – a wistful story of yearning in beautiful cinematic detail. It may seem harsh but I do think that it is the one good role that Mickey Rourke ever played. As to Kim Basinger – need I say more? In my opinion, a more dreamy person on this Earth would be hard to find.

The film appeals to me not only due to wonderfully cast main actors, soft focus cinematography full of atmosphere, great soundtrack and beautiful erotic scenes. It is also a story of loneliness, of a search for human connection, a yearning for thrill, excitement and love – and a hidden sadness behind it all, a tragedy of circumstances and self-destructive behaviour which prevents two people from embracing the possibility of deeper connection when it comes their way.

It could have been so bleak – as many such “erotic exploration” stories so often are – fortunately, it stands out from the crowd with its funny, charming and silly moments as well as simply due to being so beautiful and stylish. Even if it has no conventional happy-ever-after this film is so well made that it can be watched again and again.
9 1/2 Weeks is based on a memoir of the same title written by Elizabeth McNeill (pen name of Ingeborg Day) in 1978 which I have not had a chance to read yet and I wonder if my opinion of the film would change once I do. Of course, the film can be appreciated as a separate work of art.

Having first seen it when I was much younger and had a very different understanding of human relationships and alternative lifestyles, other aspects of the film speak to me now. It also raises a question of how well did these characters manage to articulate their desires and agree what their dynamic is to be – I would like to believe that at least some discussions happen behind the scenes although by the end of the film it seems quite clear that they have not been able to talk to each other very successfully.
The lack of dialogue in the film however seems to me one of the main strengths of 9 and 1/2 Weeks – the viewer can make of it what they will – a sensual erotica with elements of BDSM, a darker story of exploration taken too far , a portrayal of exploitation or a tragic story of love that never was.

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