The Principles of Lust (2003)

Alec Newman and Sienna Guillory in The Principles of Lust (2003)

"Brave" and "Disgusting"

There were two words which came up when I looked for information on "The Principles of Lust" those were "Brave" and "Disgusting". You see this is a movie which splits people because there are those who see the grittiness and disturbing, explicit sex scenes as brave movie making, bucking the trend of what is normal. But then there are those who see it as being disturbing and pretentious throwing nudity, sex scenes, young boys bare knuckle fighting and a graphic orgy scene for no real purpose other than to be different. The thing is that "The Principles of Lust" is both brave and disgusting because it does try to be brave by being different but in doing so loses the heart of the story and becomes disgusting.

Paul (Alec Newman) has been on the dole for a long time and whilst he is supposedly meant to be writing a book his day is routine and vacuous. But then he meets two people the attractive Juliette (Sienna Guillory - Love Actually) who he quickly falls for and even likes her son Harry (Alexander Popplewell) and then there is Billy (Marc Warren - Wanted) who hates normality preferring to live life on the edge attending fights between boys and sex parties. At a crossroads Paul finds himself struggling to choose between a life of normality or one of unpredictable danger and excitement.

Marc Warren as Billy in The Principles of Lust (2003)

At the heart of "The Principles of Lust" is a story about choices and in particular the choice which unemployed Paul faces because on one hand he meets Billy who lives life on the edge, doing drugs, watching young boys fight and basically sticks two fingers up to conformity at every opportunity. But on the other hand he meets Juliette who he loves and her son Harry who he adores, they offer security and normality something which his life has lacked. So what we should have is a movie about Paul battling to choose a hedonistic lifestyle like Billy or normality which can be boring.

The trouble is that writer and director Penny Woolcock tries hard to be different and brave and by doing that serving up nudity, sex and grittiness heck the movie even opens with a naked Paul swimming. And there is something to be said for trying to doing things differently because to be frank most movies run to a set formula and "The Principles of Lust" does end up leading you on a merry dance, a guessing game of what will happen.

The trouble is that the focus on Billy's hedonistic life style ends up dominating the story with scene after scene which either feature young boys brawling circled by thuggish men or various sex scenes. It becomes a case of how daring can the movie get and trust me the orgy scene is one of the most graphical you will see pushing things to the limit. It is why many see it is as disgusting because all the scenes of extreme sex and violence end up not serving the story but there to push you, each time pushing you a little more.

Now whether you find "The Principles of Lust" either brave or disgusting it does have another problem and that are characters that you can't warm to. Okay so this is gritty movie making so we don't get nice characters but even so Juliette, her friend Phillip, Paul, Hole and Billy are all characters that you end up keeping at arms length. It also means that the actual performances end up feeling wrong and in some cases quite amateur with really only Marc Warren making an impact because Billy is such an extreme character and Warren makes him seriously dangerous in an unpredictable way.

What this all boils down to is that "The Principles of Lust" maybe brave movie making but it goes too far and by trying to be brave, edgy and different it loses the heart of the story and becomes all about the sex and violence rather than the life choices which the central character of Paul faces.