Her Composition

****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Her Composition
"The film rests on an extraordinary physical performance by Jensen."

Malorie (Joslyn Jensen) is a student of composition. Her course is coming to an end; to secure a scholarship that will enable her to proceed to a pHd, she needs to produce a piece of work that will really impress the funders and mark her out as a distinctive talent. But where to begin? Close to the deadline, she finds herself abandoning what she had been working on. It's too staid, too formulaic. She needs inspiration.

She also needs money. There's no room here for the Hollywood myth that every student has rich parents to turn to in time of need. There's one obvious way that a young woman who also values her time can make good money. Though initially hesitant, Malorie quickly commits herself to working as a call girl. The discovery of just how varied clients are, how different her experiences are with each one, prompts her to use these experiences in her music, taking something from these intimate encounters without their knowledge and making it part of her creation.

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The ethical and emotional complexities of these decisions are explored with a deft touch by writer/director Stephan Littger in what is a strikingly ambitious d├ębut feature. Malorie is intrigued and visibly moved by some of her more vulnerable clients; unsurprised by the violence she faces at the hands of another, and personally drawn to one of them, who gradually forms an attachment to her that seems to go beyond business - a matter complicated by that secrets she's keeping. Each contributes something different to her composition, but as she opens herself more and more to these external influences, her own mind and body seem to wither away.

The film rests on an extraordinary physical performance by Jensen, who carries her slight frame so that it takes up as little space as possible. Costumed in shades of pink, white and beige to create an impression of unassuming, fragile femininity, Malorie seems to be trying to recede into the background of her own story in order to make room for her creation. As her work goes on, friends begin to worry. She's hardly eating. She doesn't seem to be herself any more.

We've all seen the theme of the obsessive, doomed creative artist played out before in the likes of Amadeus and The Red Shoes, whilst stories of women disintegrating under pressure are everywhere from Repulsion to The Eyes Of My Mother. Littger, however, does something a little less obvious with his story, in the process highlighting the difficult line many artists feel they need to walk and what it takes to do so. These themes are complemented by the creative work in the film itself - we never do hear all of the music (indeed, it's not clear if Malorie is able to take it all in at once), but we see something of the visual map she uses to assemble it, and we journey with her as she explores the textures of her physical environment, from tree bark to traffic fumes, each element painstakingly reinterpreted in sound.

The result of all this is something very different from most of what you're likely to see at the cinema - an art film worthy of the name. It has already enjoyed success on the festival circuit and it's well worth seeking out.

Reviewed on: 23 May 2018
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Her Composition packshot
A talented, artistically stuck composition student starts seeing escort clients after failing to secure her scholarship. Struck with unexpected sounds during her sexual encounters, she turns them into music and the clients into her muse.
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Director: Stephan Littger

Writer: Stephan Littger

Starring: Heather Matarazzo, Lulu Wilson, Christian Campbell, Kevin Breznahan, Margot Bingham, Rachel Feinstein

Year: 2015

Runtime: 93 minutes

Country: US, Germany

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