HER COMPOSITION

Before the Tide

(Stephan Littger’s debut film Her Composition (starring HtN buddy Joslyn Jensen) is available now on VOD

Her Composition is a feminist film that was made on the cusp of an ideological revolution. Though it was just released on V.O.D. in 2018, it was made in 2015. Back then, time wasn’t yet up. Films about the emotional Odysseys of women were all told by white men and didn’t pass the Bechdel test. That’s not to say Stephan Littger’s debut is a bad film. It’s actually quite lovely and ambitious. But it also feels a bit like a feminist time capsule.

Captivating up-and-coming actress Joslyn Jensen plays Malorie, a music PhD student who loses her scholarship to a man because her thesis piece doesn’t come from the heart. Desperate for money and inspiration, Malorie takes on the dossier of a high-end sex worker. She doesn’t seem to have a plan at the outset. She just knows she needs to shake things up. But she discovers self-assurance during her first encounter and soon, she’s got a “crazy wall” covered in quotes, snippets of written music, and meaningful insect corpses. There is no shortage of men saying and doing awful things to Malorie, but she also meets a few kind and lonely people. As she goes deeper into her titular composition, she begins to mentally and physically unravel. Before long, Malorie is racing her declining health to the finish line.

Cinematographer Andres Karu is instrumental in expressing Malorie’s shifting perspective. At first, all the shots are simple and orderly. But the camera moves more wildly as the artist loses her inhibitions and submits to the process. The film is truly beautiful to behold.

Littger’s narrative occasionally flirts with heavy-handedness. The story is broken into 4 “movements”: Awakening, Inspiration, Creation, and [Untitled]. Malorie spends the early part of the film getting shit from all the men in her life. But Jensen’s expressions and body language go a long way toward selling her character. Malorie’s journey to liberation is a throwback. She’s a D.H. Lawrence feminist, finding agency through sex with men (and one woman!). Her clients are mostly innocuous wealthy odd-balls who either can’t get laid any other way or else their particular kinks are too much for the average person.

Littger peppers the cast with indie notables like Christian Campbell (Reefer Madness), and Heather Matarazzo (Welcome to the Dollhouse).

Clearly Littger is doing something right, because in 2016, 355 people signed a petition to block a screening of Her Composition on the grounds that “disguising man-bashing in a film about female empowerment is not okay.” Two years later, we’re finally embarking on the next wave of feminism. Hopefully this means more women will get to tell their own stories and not have to rely on handouts from men. In the meantime, Her Composition keeps the conversation going.

– Jessica Baxter (@tehBaxter)

 

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