Berlinale: Dora or The Sexual Neuroses of Our Parents

Dora oder Die sexuellen Neurosen unserer Eltern
Directed by Stina Werenfels

Starring Victoria Schulz, Jenny Schily, Lars Eidinger and Urs Jucker

by Laura Patricia Jones

Eighteen – an age of sexual enlightenment often portrayed vivaciously with post-prom lovemaking and awkward scenes in cars. But Dora or The Sexual Neuroses of Our Parents is a difficult watch. 18-year-old Dora is blossoming and sexually curious, she is also mentally handicapped. After following an unsuspecting man into a subway toilet, they embark on a practically abusive sexual relationship that leaves her pregnant.

This kind of subject matter is a difficult feat in itself, and at times Stina Werenfels’s script becomes farcical. The cast is strong and the film remains well acted throughout, but some scenes just stray too far into the realms of the absurd. In Dora’s first sexual encounter with Peter, we are subjected to what looks like an uncomfortable and vivid rape scene which makes it even more of an uncomfortable watch as their relationship develops into one of consented sexual exchange. Scenes such as Dora wanting to be married and Peter handing her a key ring off his car keys, as well as an attempted three-way while she is heavily pregnant, were a mixture of upsetting meets borderline cringe. Peter with his suaveness, BMW, heavy smoking and attraction to seedy bars, is the stereotypical ‘bad boy’ – Werenfel couldn’t have made it anymore obvious if she stuck a pair of horns on his head.  But, there are moments particularly towards the end where he shows small signs of empathy to make the plot more bearable.

This aside, one of the major flaws is that Dora’s parents don’t really demonstrate any kind of ‘sexual neuroses’.  They, like any parents, are just uncomfortable about their disabled child being in an abusive sexual relationship with a prized misogynist. The opening and closing scenes attempt an art house style approach with stylised montage, but this doesn’t really work as the theme doesn’t hold strong throughout. Dora is predominantly an exploration of motherhood and relationships, but dealing with sensitive issues such as learning difficulties, sexual abuse, abortion and pregnancy prove problematic as it doesn’t address these issues with the correct level of empathy and respect.  Attempting to take on such a plot shouldn’t be without credit, but these 90 minutes of cringe worthy chaos requires a strong stomach.

Leave a Reply