Austin Film Festival: Her Composition
A struggling artist finds her muse(s)
By Jessi Cape,
1:00PM, Sun. Nov. 1, 2015
Most creative types know well the eye of the artistic hurricane: trying to find that sweet, productive spot while teetering on the edge of sanity thanks to endless hours of solitude, sleep deprivation, and malnutrition, all in the name of expression.
In Her Composition, Malorie (Joslyn Jensen) finds herself at that precipice with her Ph.D. music composition funding lost, her voice and vision buried under imposed structures, her life an unopened flower bud of potential. When her fairy godmother, an androgynous Grace Jones-esque visual artist (real artist Julia Colavita), bestows a dossier of high-end escort clients, Malorie seizes the opportunity to fund her education, and find herself in the process.
A narrative film, this is a story of creation, told through one woman’s transformation. As Malorie struggles to write her masterpiece, she shreds the original work and begins a high-speed chase to quilt together snippets of inspiration from her sexual experiences with her clients in the city. As she courts her muse(s), metamorphosis in both Malorie’s wardrobe and apartment indicate the cocoon has been abandoned, and her wild and colorful mind map version 2.0 quickly ripples outward as the story progresses, a truly stunning visual addition to the film. Malorie incorporates a client’s bedroom wallpaper, a memory of a street cellist song, a fly on the wall, a drum circle in the park, and the scritch-scratch of styrofoam into her piece.
Undercurrents of social issues run throughout. Paired against her best friend’s feminist nonprofit work with “Purple Justice,” Malorie finds her own way to, well, “fuck the patriarchy.” Striking a balance between enough self-destruction to get the job done and a necessary detachment from clients and the outside world’s distractions, Malorie does, predictably, see the dark side. And it’s harsh, to be sure. Still, a multilayered painting in its own right, the film explores the ideas that feminism doesn’t work just one way and neither sexuality nor empowerment fit in a nice neat box. Malorie’s path is her own, and thanks to a refreshingly thoughtful filmmaking team, Her Composition attempts to show that every person’s journey - sexual and otherwise - is unique, and worthy.
Writer/director Stephan Littger weaves this “tale told in four movements” - an intentional disruption of the standard three act film - with interesting technical choices and a meaningful palette. Different aspect ratios, foliage blurred with macro lenses, and ambient sounds of the cityscape all work their way into the storyline while providing a stunning sensory experience. He also disrupts the status quo by setting a highly artistic story smack-dab in the middle of an industry swirling with infinite opinions on sexuality, femininity, abuse, and power. Littger’s film offers a chance to flip preconceived notions on their heads, to create our own mind maps, to view an artist in her process, and see a (fictional) woman reinvent herself on her terms. This is absolutely a thinking film, but a bizarrely beautiful and entertaining one as well.