Friday, 19 August 2016

REVIEW - SWORN VIRGIN (LAURA BISPURI)


A sombre discourse on the damaging, potentially dangerous application of gender upon sex; resolutely without humour, though not without hope. Laura Bispuri tackles antiquated, curious standards of gender identification in this story of a young person without a particular place in society, or in what remains of a society in the mountains of Albania. Her statement is less an expected one of trans or non-binary liberation than it is one of quiet condemnation at rigorous cultural rules separating women from men in meaningless ways. In her confused, compelling protagonist, she and Alba Rohrwacher craft the ideal conduit for expressing the film's ever-changing perspectives on its subject, only eventually settling on a timid note of ambiguity that promises a future equally undefined. Sworn Virgin ends on a potentially problematic point, but with genuine tenderness, and its position in the context of the film's thematic explorations wholly excuses it its questionable nature. Bispuri's refusal to make distinct delineations between past and present, clarity and obscurity, one emotional state and the next, produces a film that's undoubtedly intriguing in its construction, and that never shirks its essential complexity, but that's also annoyingly vague. A number of visually interesting compositions aside, the film's casual, monotonous style does little to enlighten the viewer as to the precise significance of what we're shown. If the sum of it all is indeed a thorough and worthy declaration on cultural attitudes toward gender and their impact on individuals, it's never more than it immediately appears to be. But Bispuri is evidently an intelligent filmmaker, and Rohrwacher a terrific performer, and together they make the most of Sworn Virgin.