While most every film I review is odd or controversial, most of the time it is due to simple scathing visuals, adult subject matter, or immoral or illegal activities simulated onscreen for vicarious voyeuristic delight of the viewer. This is an easy feat to accomplish, and directors need only add more blood or less clothing to achieve this. However, every once in a while, there is a film that is disturbing in doctrine and, by that, I mean the existence or “grindhouse” style of the film itself is actually contrary to the ultimate pro social if not positive moral message that the film itself is trying to convey.In perhaps the most famous example of this, the ancient drug awareness film, REEFER MADNESS, is a film that has fallen short of its intended message as its staunch, authoritarian, fear driven anti-marijuana warning that is now a fan favorite to play wherever large groups of modern weed smokers congregate; a true cinema cannabis classic.
Today’s film is PROFANE, the story of a young Muslim woman who struggles with her faith even as she works as an S+M dominatrix in New York. You know you are in for a strange ride as a viewer when the most basic premise of an unrated, hard boiled drama sounds like a new wacky sitcom that no sane network would dare air. Let us watch this and see if there is any profound statement to be found in this very profane presentation.
Told in a false documentary style, PROFANE is the story of Muna, a young Jordanian woman who, as a child, was driven from her homeland to the United States because she simply could not memorize the passages in the Koran. Now she endures a hardscrabble existence as a dominatrix along with her best friend and co-conspirator Mary, an attractive but ravenous little “butch” girl (Molly Plunk) who is also a creature of habit (all of the bad ones). Together these two women live, work and play together exactly as you might expect buy two women driven by a steady diet of drugs, outrageous behavior and bad decisions. It isn’t long before Muna starts to hear voices. Shortly thereafter a young Muslim cab driver takes a brotherly platonic interest in her and informs her that theses voices could be Djinni’s, creatures of “smokeless fire” who watch over us and try and inspire us to do the right thing. This entire movie is the story of one woman’s attempt to come to terms with her own Muslim faith, even as she is obviously addicted to every possible forbidden behavior according to the Koran and even more so when indulged by a woman.
Now that sounds pretty cut and dried but PROFANE actually gets a lot more complicated than this and it’s not because there are deep, delicate nuances to Muna and her gutter lifestyle but because the filming style is so carried and nuanced it comes across as a series of highly dramatized montages. Purely at random the film will revert to scenes of highly dramatized illustrations of Muna and moments from her life, memory fragments that have been often aggrandized and symbolized for our enjoyment (if not our complete befuddlement) as an audience. These Mtv inspired short vignettes often include black and white footage of her exorcism as a young girl, repeated scenes of her posing naked, writhing about in a meadow with the colors jacked up to an impossible level of contrast. Also included are all kinds of scenes depicting Muna enjoying her sensuality (and by that I mean her very active sex life) meanwhile the Djinnis groan and grouse about in the background in grating disapproval. By the end of this, you won’t be sure if Muna is in fact hearing voices because she is terribly mentally ill, or if this is what the world looks like as seen through a beautiful Arab girl who is fueled by a steady diet of cocaine, unconventional sex and religious structural abuse. Still another interpretation of the movie may be the fact that Muna is actually possessed by the Djinnis who are desperately calling for her to come back to the Muslim faith and live a life of chaste propriety as a women of faith. I will say that this film does eventually resolve this central conflict once and for all in a definite conclusion as Muna herself chooses once and for all between a life of earthly delight and heavenly virtue. This is an all important moment, because aside from the resolution of this one central conflict, the rest of this seventy nine minute film seems to be obsessed with how to make sex look as visually enticing and yet somehow as scary as possible at moments. At times it becomes an incredible art film, yet at other times it is something akin to the onscreen fever dreams that one might expect from someone dying from Aids related illnesses.
Now for the reasons why this unique take on religious temptation will likely never find an audience who can truly understand nor appreciate it. While the naughty nuns are the subject of every Catholic schoolboy fantasy pressed to celluloid (if not the prime driving force behind “nunsploitation”), Muslim folks tend to have absolutely no sense of humor whatsoever when it comes to satirizing their religious codes, credos, and rituals, especially one that questions the virtue of the Muslim faith itself. So what you are left with is a film that speaks of certain cultural issues that is only truly meaningful by someone with at least a working appreciation of what it is like to be Muslim, even though merely viewing a pornographic film like this would be most “Haram” or sinful; absolutely forbidden to by any man (or especially any woman) who considers themselves a follower of the prophet of Mohammed.
What remains is a slightly thought provoking film, shot in an aggrandized music video style that raises some various salient points about what it is like to be a Muslim female as well as a sexually liberated creature that most people will never see because its Muslim themed religious presentation renders it impossible to appreciate by anything but the usual fringe porno loving audience who only cares for still more highly thematic, albeit senseless scenes of full frontal nudity.
Extras Includes additional footage and a movie trailer.