In Their Room: Berlin (2010) comprises an unsimulated sexual encounter between Luc, who is French and Jolry, who is American. Mathews shows the whole experience, from Luc’s journey by metro to meet Jolry at his apartment, their initial getting to know you conversation, foreplay, and sex itself. There is a level of awkward interaction between the pair, attributable to an inevitable sense of performance for camera.
A revealing post-coital conversation about how they each expected the other to look different demonstrates that contrary to popular assumptions about online dating, both Luc and Jolry say their online profiles don’t do justice to their attractiveness. Another couple featured heavily in In Their Room: Berlin is Jorsten and Micha, observed hanging out in their studio flat, presumably being as silly, tender and natural as they might be without cameras present. It’s perhaps due to Mathew’s Masters in Counselling Psychology that he manages to put his protagonists at such ease, and the spectrum of human experience evident throughout In Their Room can be thought of as a study of the individuality and connectedness of people generally. Each man, by participating, shows clearly their desire to share their life, and thus the project is something of a document of a sharing culture.
As the special feature ‘Process’ reveals, Mathew’s intent with In Their Room, his narrative feature I Want Your Love (2012) and the aforementioned Interior. Leather Bar, is to put on screen, a ‘whole area of sexuality, specifically gay sexuality, that hasn’t been explored.’ This involves showing that sex isn’t just the before and after shots that traditional narrative cinema would have you think, and that the ‘whole experience of sex’ should be shown, placing the affectionate moments next to the raw and explicit. With contemporaries Andrew Haigh (Weekend (2011)) and John Cameron Mitchell (Shortbus (2006)) perhaps better known directors of work addressing the spectrum of Queer experience, Mathews’ oeuvre - a less slick, more explicit approach – courts pornography in one sense and in another, is simply a compelling and essential contribution to the cinema of human drama.
Harriet Warman | @HarrietWarman