As obvious as the metaphor is, ‘Rubber Dolphin’ isn’t only about what the title suggests. The 25-minute short film, which was screened in the students’ section of the Cannes Film Festival, is extremely self-aware. What is considered to be a semi-autobiographical look into his own life, the director Ori Aharon brings a narrative that tries to define what intimacy is. It features explicit scenes but doesn’t solely rely on them. Having studied in a film-school, he cleverly handles his craft for a situation placed in just a single location, and devoid of any ostentatious actions.
The whole narrative unfolds in just a single room while being in close proximity to its subjects. For a conversation happening between two gay lovers, the film never loses its authenticity while touching several topics that often remain unspoken. They cuddle, smile and share the joy of merely being there. Both of them just want to have a good time. And they’re so happy just to be with one another that the intercourse goes on like a breezy chat on any given day.
These 20-somethings do not share even a hint of stress or burden about any kind of repercussions. They seem aware that it’s ‘their’ moment where they will be completely devoted to each other. This moment is when they submit to each other to fulfill physical intimacy. The question doesn’t even linger what this sexual act means for either of them.
The film, although largely about their intercourse, isn’t obscene in any way. The credit goes to the writing that is so casual yet cerebral while giving an insight into their power dynamic. Even their positions during this part and the choices they make share something deeper about their personalities. While one of them is just as fine in giving the pleasure to his partner, the other one would always prefer a position where he’s the dominant one. These seemingly immaterial aspects would escape just as easily if not observed with the required intimacy. Ori Aharon seems to understand not just how it works in reality but the way it needs to be brought to the screen.
The film focuses on individual pleasure over any kind of stigma. It places the romanticism and cynicism between these two lovers in a setting where the only thoughts they would have will somehow be just about their relationship. While the script is able to evoke the pathos, it is the sensible lead performances by Omi Laron and Chen Hefetz that make it memorable. Especially Chen Hefetz, who brings the vulnerability that creeps up when we would least expect it. The lack of score makes the sounds, even more, reverberating where even a breath can convey more than any words can.
‘Rubber Dolphin’ doesn’t fake its naturalism and as a result, works as a poignant ode about the shackles towards building a relationship.