The Attraction of Extremes, Sex and Experimentalism in Behind the Green Door, by Mitchell Brothers
22 april 2022 
11 min. read

The Attraction of Extremes, Sex and Experimentalism in Behind the Green Door, by Mitchell Brothers

Behind the Green Door is a film belonging to the Golden Age of Pornography, a 15-year period (1969-1984), in which American commercial pornographic cinema was revered by both critics and general public.

Influenced by Blue Movie (1969), directed by Andy Warhol, and Mona (1970), produced by Bill Osco, Behind the Green Door (1971), directed by brothers Artie Mitchell and Jim Mitchell, (along with Deep Throat (1972), The Devil in Miss Jones (1973), both directed by Gerard Damiano, The Opening of Misty Beethoven (1973), directed by Radley Metzger ) is now considered a classic of porn cinema, not only for being one of the first films with explicit scenes aimed at a large audience and at the same time having a narrative, but for offering something that these movies already mentioned did not do, which is to merge sex with experimental cinema.

behind-the-green-doorFig.1.

If one of the possible definitions of experimental cinema is what Jean Lyortad calls acinema, “situated at the two poles of the cinema taken as a writing of movements: thus, extreme immobilization and extreme mobilization” (LYOTARD, Jean-François. L'Acinema". In: Narrative, Apparatus, Ideology: A Film Theory Reader. New York: Columbia University Press, 1986, p. 356), pornographic cinema as a genre directed towards excess, towards unnecessary expenditure, one of the defining characteristics of the erotic, it integrates perfectly with the practices of experimental filmmakers.

Behind the Green Door pornFig.2.

In Behind the Green Door, we witness the ambivalence of montage as a process of organizing and neutralizing the discontinuity between one shot and another, and the ostentation of discontinuity and the expenditure of energy involved in this process. Even though it has a simple plot (a young virgin is kidnapped and taken to a strange club with a green door where she is subjected to various types of depravities), the moment the film lends itself to telling a story, it offers “the window effect” to the viewer as a way of making the screen become a double of the real world and, therefore, turn to the excited film.

Behind the Green Door porn movieFig.3.

The interesting thing is that the filmed sexual act moves away from the “window effect” to which the spectator-voyeur is used, because, for him or her, the sexual act is developed, almost always, in a general plan, without cuts, which can occur, but due to the intervention of several factors: the lovers discover that they are being watched and, soon after, close the window. With the advent of smaller cameras (the Steadicam, in 1976, for example), which had image stabilization technology and greater film storage capacity, pornographic cinema can free itself from the limitations of time and space, which happened, when they started to produce works directly for VHS format, in the 1980s and 1990s. But, as we must remember, Behind the Green Door is a 1971 production and is far from such technological advances and aesthetic procedures.

Behind the Green Door Artie MitchellFig.4.

Like any Hollywood production, the film uses the Griffithian montage in the construction of its narrative, however, the sexual acts themselves are not constituted as a narrative, but as a cinema of attraction, a term that Tom Gunning used for the films belonging to the first cinema, produced until 1906-07, which aimed “displays its visibility, willing to rupture a self-enclosed fictional world for a chance to solicit the attention of the spectator” (GUNNING, Tom. The cinema of attractions: early film, its spectator and the avant- garde: In: The cinema of attractions reloaded. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2006, p. 382). In attraction cinema, the target is always the audience, as in the film Le Coucher de la Mariée (Albert Kirchner, 1904), in which a woman, when undressing for her husband, actually addresses the camera and the spectator, with winks and smiles (see video at the end of the article!).

Behind the Green Door FellatioFig.5.

As interest is the sexual act aimed at arousing the spectator's attention and complicity, both attraction cinema and pornographic cinema use the alternation or not of plans to request attention, which ends up giving it a hybrid character. In this sense, if the introduction fulfills, in Behind the Green Door , its narrative role, and its central part, the orgy, uses the resources of the Griffithian montage to excite the spectator, the epilogue subverts them, as it uses slow motion, alternating color filters, repetition and overlapping images as a way of establishing, beyond fiction, another reality, in which the act of showing what is on the screen is affirmed in the materiality of the film itself, which reveals the editing procedures as dissonance with the “window effect”.

Behind the Green Door Mitchell brothersFig.6.

If Behind the Green Door is unique in its genre, perhaps this resides in the greater need that producers, from then on, began to have to integrate narrative in pornographic cinema as another component of immersion of the spectator in the film, increasingly abandoning the experimental and the decoupage, in favor of increasingly longer shots, which prevent the gaze from diverting and “thinking” about what they see. In this sense, Behind the Green Door remains a separate case, in which the experimental and the narrative, by blending, take us back to the beginnings of sex as a cinematographic spectacle.

Marilyn Chambers fellatioFig.7.

Marilyn Chambers Behind the Green DoorFig.8.

Marilyn Chambers  OrgasmFig.9.

Behind the Green Door Movie posterFig.10. Original movie poster 'Behind the Green Door ' (1972)


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Alexandre Rodrigues da Costa is poet and works as a professor of Art History at the State University of Minas Gerais, Brazil.
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