In 1913, the inventor of modern dance Isadora Duncan suffered a tragic loss: her two children and their governess drowned when their car crashed into the Seine. In 1921, Duncan dedicated Mother—an overwhelming dance piece choreographed to the music of Scriabin—to her children. A century later, four Frenchwomen—three dancers and a famous choreographer—are studying the score of Mother. One is trying to choose an appropriate intonation for it, trying to avoid the aestheticization of trauma; the other two, a teacher and a student, stage the piece, while the fourth woman watches the production from the audience. This elegant and mesmerizing picture about dance and cultural continuity won French filmmaker Damien Manivel the Best Director award at the Locarno International Film Festival.
Like the lead subject in Claire Denis's documentary Towards Mathilde, choreographer Mathilde Monier, former dancer and acrobat Damien Manivel is preoccupied with the preparation of dancers for the performance. Although titles are used in the film to mark the days of rehearsals, over the two fall months, October and November, we learn practically nothing about the dancers' personal lives. Instead, Manivel gives a voice to each of the women's bodies: not just the body of the young and beautiful actress Agathe Bonitzer (daughter of the French film critic, screenwriter, and director Pascal Bonitzer), but also those of performer Manon Carpentier who has Down syndrome, experienced dancer Marika Rizzi, and the renowned choreographer of Jamaican origin Elsa Wolliaston. By filming female protagonists of different ages, physicalities, and training levels, Manivel demonstrates a variety of possible interpretations of one and the same dance. Uniting the heroines is their admiration for Isadora Duncan's talent and the grief they share with her. Although the film does not reveal any nuances about the great dancer's life, it probably tells more about Duncan and her method than many biopics.
The film will be screened in French with Russian subtitles.
Dir. Damien Manivel
France, South Korea, 2019. 84 min. 18+