Raindance Film Festival review: Her Composition

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In his directorial debut, Stephan Littger's exploration of how far against the grain one woman will go to find her true artistic identity, delves into some brutal, honest and uncomfortable questions about feminism and artistic individuality.

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It’s in the very nature of cinema to be, at some level or another, profound. We can argue all day about the layers and levels and great big spider-webs of symbolism that underscore the films of Michael Bay or Zack Snyder – but in its very being, modern cinema is cinema because it says, or tries to say, something – even if that something’s substance is infantile, shallow or a tad too heavy on the pyro front. What is rare is to find a film that is effectively profound, relates to both the world and a certain section of that society with creativity, and has an eye for saying something that has the potential to get heard in a world where it’s been said a thousand times before in only a whisper.

Her Composition is one of those rare instances of a film that tries utterly and completely over the top to be profound, and have it work its way. To find one of these rare gems that works and says something worth saying when so many people pass up the time to hear it? Well let me tell you, it’s just the most electric feeling seeing that happen.

Our protagonist, Malorie, stunningly played by Joslyn Jensen, really deserves any and all recognition she can get sent her way. She’s sensational, transfixing, metallic and magnetic in every way, a rising star on a backdrop of satellites, which is a similarly rare thing to find. And, crucially, if we don’t find her going to the highest and furthest places in the realm of independent cinema, and perhaps even further, then the realm of independent cinema doesn’t know what it’s missing – and neither will we.

image credit: Picture Train Company

Credit: Picture Train Company

Divided into four ‘quartets’ (Awakening, Inspiration, Creation, [Untitled]), Her Composition follows Malorie, a talented young composition student, continually and constantly let down by the entitlement of the men that surround her: her cheating boyfriend, her sexist tutor, catcallers on the street – the whole shebang. At a creative dead-end with her current graduation composition, and denied scholarship for further education, Melanie dives headfirst into an odyssey of sexuality, selling her body to an escort service to break free of the societal status quo which has begun to erode her own creative spark, and to gather fragments of inspiration for a final composition she can call her own.

It raises some poignant questions about feminism, often refusing to offer any matching answers, and the blurred line between the act of dominating and being dominated. Scenes are strewn with power-plays and shifts of control, as money trades hands and the struggles that repel each other inside the feminist movement are brought to an ironic light. The word ‘slut’ is used by a feminist organisation too many times for them to claim they don’t associate with body-shaming, the escorts lying as still as a plank for too long a time to say they unconditionally enjoy their line of work. It’s a conflicting film, and one which doesn’t offer many answers – or satisfaction. Which is an interesting vein to take, considering director Stephan Littger is of the white-male-variety himself.

Whilst the amount of phallic symbolism goes to such extortionate lengths it almost becomes a game of ‘spot the genitalia’, and at times any notion of subtlety is thrown out of the nearest window, Her Composition actually succeeds in bringing up several important issues and says something worth hearing about them all. And all whilst brandishing some fantastic editing and dialogue, and a sumptuous score to match. Look out for this one, it’s not often that something as magnetically profound as this graces the big screen.

Her Composition (2016), directed by Stephan Littger, is being shown as part of the 2016 Raindance Film Festival. Further information about the festival including screening times and ticket information can be found here.

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Third year Film and English student living in D.C., self-proclaimed go-to Edge expert on Cloverfield, Fall Out Boy, and Jake Gyllenhaal. Loves mostly those three things.

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