Sex can be pretty messy. And I don’t just mean physically. It is a slippery slope down an emotional black hole, planted with embarrassment, fear and pain along the way, and once you’re sucked in, there’s no turning back. In La Petite Mort, Elizabeth Jaeleigh Davis exorcises her own carnal demons, by delving into the underreported world of female sexuality, in all its sticky glory.
The 8 min short is a bold reminder that even when we’re surrounded by sex and relentlessly pushing its boundaries, we are still incapable of discussing our sexual experiences openly. The title of the film translates to the “the little death” but the term is common slang for “orgasm”. The phrase is apropos to the plot of the film, but also the intertwining of these twin taboos: sex and death. Davis approaches this tangle of confusion allegorically, but in a personal manner, drawing upon her youthful feelings of confusion, pain, and shame in a way which you won’t forget any time soon.
“I grew up in a household where puberty was embarrassing and sex was never discussed”
A virginal young couple, very much in love, share an intimate kiss over a picnic in a serene meadow. They retreat to the nearby forest in order to take their relationship to the next level, where the girl presents a home baked cherry pie, inciting a moment of passion. Everything changes, however, when a tragic accident takes place. La Petite Mort courts controversy through its feminist exploration of the messiness of the first time, wrapped in a romanticized fairytale with a dark twist.
Davis drew inspiration for La Petite Mort from her own past; “I grew up in a household where puberty was embarrassing and sex was never discussed. Media was the outlet for my curiosity, and before long I was ready to see what all the fuss was about”, she recalls.
I had a very similar upbringing, and had to discover that period blood wasn’t in fact blue and you absolutely couldn’t orgasm from having your nipples fondled. Frankly you are more likely to get there by rubbing yourself against the corpse of your dead boyfriend… When I was about to lose my virginity, to my mortification and surprise, my boyfriend at the time tried to shine a flashlight inside my vagina to “see what it actually looked like inside”, to the sounds of his mom making breakfast next door.
“I wanted to encapsulate the physical and emotional baggage that comes with losing one’s virginity”
Davis’ first time wasn’t exactly the beautiful experience she had been looking forward to either. “Every attempt was unbearably painful. The years thereafter were a defeating cycle of desire and punishment. With La Petite Mort, I wanted to encapsulate the physical and emotional baggage that comes with losing one’s virginity”, the director explains.
The short certainly achieves this, by masterfully interweaving tragedy and comedy, beauty and ugliness, much like sex often stirs up conflicting feelings of pleasure and pain, satisfaction and frustration, love and shame. La Petite Mort serves as a conversation starter, inspiring an honest look at one’s own sexual experiences and encouraging us to share those in order to extinguish the lingering taboos.
Davis is currently developing a feature film, exploring female psychosexual themes, as well as other shorts and art project, so watch this space!