Ammonite's intimate sex scene with Saoirse Ronan
There is one kind that is still rarely seen, despite sex scenes being prevalent in popular movies.
Passionate, vigorous and sweaty love scenes between two women are not often seen in film, especially not between two A-list actors in mainstream award-contenders.
Perhaps this is why the sight of the dripping bodies of Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan pressed against each other, moving with ferocity and urgency as they attempt to fulfill their sexual impulses as they feel, perhaps not alone for the first time ever, is such an incredible sight.
The Ammonite sex scene, out in theaters today, is rarely performed. Sex scenes in the history of film making are a complicated matter, representing the social mores of the respective eras. Obviously, we are not talking about pornography.
Even as sex became more permissive and regular in movies in large multiplex cinemas, unrestrained lesbian lust was almost invisible, even as movies such as 50 Shades of Grey titillated blushing suburbanites.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire, the burning period romance of Celine Sciamma featuring two women, performed extremely well critically and on the festival circuit, but it was a French film that mostly played to an audience of an art house in English-speaking territories.
It isn't meaningless the Ammonite stars Winslet and Ronan. This gives an instantly higher profile to the film, directed by God's Own Country filmmaker Francis Lee.
Ronan, who was nominated for four Oscars at the age of 26, the first when she was 13, said she regarded the friendship between her character Charlotte and the character Mary of Winslet as transcending labels.
"Yes, it's an LGBTQ+ story, but I also feel it goes beyond that, and more than anything, it's just incredibly human," the Irish actor said. It's very much about the intimacy between two individuals.
"But LGBTQ+ audience members who have watched the film feel so excited that a movie like this has been made and in the past few years we have seen many more of them, and it's an honor to be part of that movement in any way."
Set in the mid-19th century, Ammonite draws influence from the historical figure of Mary Anning, a geologist whose work was largely erased by men in history who literally took credit for her amazing fossil discoveries along her home's Jurassic Coast, Lyme Regis.
As an impoverished woman still looking for fossils to sell to visitors, the only way to support herself and her elderly mother, Lee's film dramatizes Anning. When Charlotte's husband leaves the young woman in Mary's possession as he gallivans off to Europe, Mary meets Charlotte.
Mary resents the imposition, but can't turn the money down, either. The women soon find much needed solace and passion in the other, despite the frosty start, culminating in that almost frenzied sex scene.
Perhaps the reason the erotic scene does not feel vulgar or subject to the male gaze's objectification is that Ronan and Winslet, even without an on-set intimacy coordinator, were encouraged to choreograph the action.
Ronan said among the reasons she signed up for the project were the scenes.
"In the script, the sex scenes between the two of them were not overly written, and because of that, it allowed us to really step in and take the reins in terms of choreography during rehearsals," she said. It was from the very beginning of the shooting that Kate and I were going to do that.
It was my first experience working on such an intimate scene, and it was my first time with another woman having an intimate scene. Depending on the day or the mood or who you are with, we may have a conversation about what we want and what we expect or what we have been looking for in sex and how that changes.
"Never before have I been given so much influence. As a result, we became much more vulnerable and more optimistic in what we were doing and what we were trying to say about these scenes.
"We have really been able to make this an unbelievably personal experience."
Ronan explained that, with their notebooks and pens, she and Winslet sat with Lee in rehearsals, writing down each step and movement.
No surprises were there, it was like a dance, and it was very, very technical. And once we've mastered these movements, practically like the back of our hand, we're going to be able to make it emotional and sensual, or whatever it was like that needed to come out of it.
"It had ownership over it that I had never experienced before."
Ronan hadn't collaborated with Winslet before, but during promotional tours and awards season activities, they met. So we realized, I suppose, that we came from similar stocks and approached work in a very similar way.
Then we got this chance to do this, and I felt excited. There was a real ease between the two of us from the very beginning, and Francis as well, but Kate is the reason why I wanted to be involved.
And if I were going to do with someone basically what a two-hander was, I'd like it to be with someone I felt relaxed around.
"Creativity comes out of that comfort. It felt like a partnership between the three of us really.
Ammonite is now at the cinemas.