A collection of musings on actress Matthews’ sexual history, including several incidents of abuse as a child—as told to and arranged by critic Shields (How Literature Saved My Life, 2013, etc.).
Originally conceived as a documentary about Matthews’ side job as an English dubber of Italian pornography, the project developed into a much more revealing examination of her feelings about desire, sex, and love. Corresponding with Shields, her cousin once removed, Matthews reveals the extent to which the repeated sexual trauma she suffered as a child has affected her life. Matthews refers to her trauma as the experience that “formatted” her; all subsequent experiences have been interpreted or refracted by her abuse. Shields, too, notes in his introduction that the project’s focus shifted to whether or not one important question could be answered: “How and to what degree is it possible to get beyond early trauma?” However, the psychological trauma experienced by Matthews as a child was not limited to sexual abuse. She also delves into the complex relationship she has with her mother, whose Jekyll-and-Hyde personality, along with her drinking problem, instilled in her paranoid and guilty thoughts about sex and pleasure. As Matthews digs deeper into her reflections on past lovers and relationships, she has a startling knack for self-analysis, describing her continual need to be the object of desire as well as the many instances that lead to her “intimacy-junkie” diagnosis. Behind Matthews’ conclusion that she lacks ownership of her body is Shields. Like Freud’s case studies, Shields acts as a gatekeeper of Matthews’ life, shaping the details of her experiences into his interpretation of her narrative. In this way, their collaboration is further complicated and creates a dramatic entanglement that goes far beyond the therapist-session quality of Matthews’ monologue.
An insightful, thought-provoking probe into the impulses of sexual desire.