It’s rare to find a film that so uncompromisingly refuses to tame its wilder side in order to pander to the masses. This isn’t for everyone. Not simply because it’s a dance film but because there is no real dialogue nor a clearly developed plot. This weaves its narrative by building a haunting and violent atmosphere through the use of sound and then filling that world with a few dancers who convulse and dance their way through a metaphorical depiction of a grief stricken mind. It isn’t a film that’s without flaws but the few that it has are dwarfed by the artistry on display here.
A lot depends here upon the actors/dancers who must non-verbally guide us through this labyrinth of metaphor and imagery. Particular credit must be given to the lead Livia Rangel who depicts the story of a woman losing her soulmate with searing honesty. What we witness here feels private and intimate as the heartbroken woman alternates between reflecting on the bright and sunlit past and being stricken with pain in the oppressive dark present. Rangel takes us through dark rooms and deep folktale-esque forests, always ensuring that we feel that she is connected to her environment, that her internal emotional conflict is in fact mirrored by her surroundings.
In order to really appreciate Sea Without Shore you must surrender to it and its way of running things. This is a somewhat emotionally and mentally exhausting experience and its repeating sounds, movements and landscapes can quickly become strenuous if you’re looking for a conventional narrative and strongly signposted plot. If however you allow yourself to get lost in the experience you will quickly become enveloped in a shifting, rhythmical and somewhat primal exploration of despair and love. However despite its great success I do not think it would have hurt the film to have been a little more rigorous in the editing room. No matter how invested in the film you are there are times where it does loose its grip on you somewhat and that’s not down to the content, the approach or the actors, but its simply due to the length of time we are asked to invest in becoming imbedded into this world. It’s length and repetitive nature do make it difficult to stay focused at times (although it’s certainly worth the struggle) and this could have been avoided had a heavier hand been present when preparing the cut.
To repeat what I said earlier, this isn’t for everyone, but that’s no bad thing. This knows exactly what it wants to be and since the filmmaking playing-field has been digitally levelled in recent years it can be exactly what it wants to be. Once upon a time this wouldn’t have stood a chance at being produced, there is no way a studio would have backed a film which so clearly defies pretty much all commercial potential and it is to be celebrated that this can and does exist. It’s a brave and confident film which takes its audience on a journey composed of sounds and convulsive movements. It’s imagery and heart echo in the mind long after the credits roll and I recommend that anyone who thinks that this sounds intriguing should at least give it a go and see if it’s for them.
What is the film’s greatest strength? The atmosphere which it spins.
Its greatest weakness? It could do with being cut down a little.
Would I see it again? Certainly, it’s not always an easy watch but it is a very worthy one.
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