You Can Watch One of Cinema’s Strangest Sex Scenes on Netflix Right Now
'The Hand of God' is Paolo Sorrentino's coming-of-age movie that could factor into this year's Oscar race.
Here’s a come-on you probably haven’t heard before: “A bat flew into my living room. Can you get rid of it?”
That’s a line from The Hand of God, the newest movie from eccentric Italian director Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty, HBO's The Young Pope). Lest you assume it’s some sort of euphemism, rest assured that there is, in fact, a bat in said living room, which belongs to the 17-year-old protagonist’s elderly gray-haired neighbor. But she’s less concerned with removing the bat than she is with removing his pants.
Which is all to say: The Hand of God contains what must be one of the strangest sex scenes ever committed to film, and certainly one of strangest ever seen on Netflix, where the movie is now available to stream. After the attempted bat removal proves traumatizing for young, introverted Fabietto (Filippo Scotti, who might as well be the Italian Timothée Chalamet), the nightgown-clad Baronessa Focale (Betty Pedrazzi) invites him into her bedroom and asks him to brush her hair. He complies, hesitantly, after which the baroness instructs him to brush her “slit.” She then walks him through his first bout of intercourse, telling him, “Don’t look at me. Bury your face in my shoulder and think about a girl you like.” We get the sense that, despite her signature aloofness, Focale is readying him, almost in a maternal way, for adulthood. In going through with it, Fabietto is following the advice of his virile father (frequent Sorrentino collaborator Toni Servillo), who earlier in the film advises him, “For your first time, take whatever comes.”
I’ve already said too much. You simply need to see this scene for yourself. But peculiar deflowering isn’t the only thing The Hand of God has going for it. (The movie takes its title from a phrase that Argentine soccer sensation Diego Maradona used to describe a goal he made during the 1986 World Cup.) A gentle, rambling coming-of-age story set in beautiful Naples during the mid-1980s, Sorrentino’s film explores the agony and ecstasy of wilting adolescence. Fabietto doesn’t have many friends, instead disappearing into his Walkman and finding company among his noisy relatives. He is a budding filmmaker with an interest in philosophy—Sorrentino mined his own childhood when writing the script—and Scotti imbues in him an attentiveness indicative of someone who will one day find his voice creatively and socially. First, though, Fabietto must experience life, including a family tragedy and that formative sexual introduction.
The Hand of God, also playing in select theaters, is Italy’s submission for the Oscars’ Best International Film category, previously known as Best Foreign Language Film, which Sorrentino won in 2014 for The Great Beauty. His next three features—Rio, I Love You; Youth; and Loro—were far more divisive among critics and audiences, making God a return to form for the Fellini-inspired auteur. It seems primed to generate his second nomination. (Other top international contenders include Compartment No. 6, Drive My Car, Flee, A Hero, Lamb, Titane, and The Worst Person in the World.) Whatever happens come Oscar nominations, Fabietto's budding sexuality will live on in all its anti-splendor, a reminder that boyhood can be weird, messy, and bizarrely beautiful.