There’s a thing going around on social media right now where people ask “What is a scene from a movie (or line from a song, etc) that lives rent-free in your mind.” The responses are often humorous, as is the point. But for me, it’s not a funny scene at all, it’s dark and breathless and teeming with intimacy.
For me, it’s the scene in Skyfall where Moneypenny shaves Bond. The scene itself is so well crafted and the atmosphere is perfect: dark yet warmly lit, secluded and private, and it unfolds slowly, luxuriantly, with an incredible chemistry between both the characters and the actors.
The reason it lives on in my head so clearly, and is replenished with details and even more eroticism each time I re-watch the film, isn’t about it being a Bond movie. It’s not even about the archetypal alpha male, nor is it about the interplay of gender and power that they so masterfully express in this scene. No, for me, it’s all about the intimacy.
Somehow, somewhere, the concept of intimacy and details became inextricably linked for me. Intimacy is not expressed in grand gestures or broad strokes. No, intimacy is up close, it is quiet and private, it is elite information; it is permission and gratitude for the knowledge of another person. To achieve intimacy, one must get close, one must earn the privilege of intimacy.
My point is not to analyse this scene from the film, but to articulate the memorable intensity of it, and how it has come to be one of the sexiest and most arousing bits of film I have ever seen. The shaving scene puts even the best porn to shame, because it achieves the sense of intimacy and vulnerability in Bond that the viewer needs to see. By the time this scene comes along we are hungry for some quiet and repose from Bond, for him to lay down the brooding alpha mask and just be a man in the privacy of his room, interrupted by a charismatic and powerful woman, only to go to putty in her hands. They spar and parry but their affection feels real, and we are treated to such a buffet of erotic details: the lighting, the pacing, the sounds of the straight razor dragging along Bond’s throat, the way they each have their breath catch in their throats, and the fact that they don’t fuck.
As a lover and as a writer, I strive to find and express intimacy. I am not often swayed by the the over arching plot in a story; I get lost in the minute details, the ones that let you closer to the characters, the moments and observations that allow you to learn more about them, and more about yourself. In the case of the shaving scene, the details, the intricacies, are almost too much to take in. They are so plentiful and served up so readily, it speaks to the delicious torture of intimacy, the intricate dance of growing ever-closer to someone. Moneypenny may kneel to shave Bond, but she is in complete control. This is not subservience. They both know this, and they both know that any moment, he could reverse that power play and take the upper hand, as Bond is wont to do. Even in his own love scenes with the ubiquitous “Bond Girls”, he is cooly passionate, giving only enough to get what he wants. But not so in this scene. This is one of the few moments of true intimacy captured in the film, and really, in the whole Bond franchise.
As a scene in a film, it leaves nothing to be desired. I would go so far as to say it is perfect in its telling of the subtleties of attraction and the magnetism of desire. I have never knelt to shave the face of a man, but as far as images that ‘live rent-free in my mind’, the idea of it, however, is one of the hottest things I can imagine. It is a fantasy that I want badly to make a reality, in part for the sheer eroticism of it, but more over, for the intricate moments of intimacy.