Eye For Film >> Movies >> Thursdays Fictions (2006) Film Review
Reviewed by: Chris
Think of a time when you tried to recall that wonderful idea. It hovers on the edge of your consciousness or like chocolate on the tip of your tongue. Close your eyes – perhaps it will come back to you.
Thursday’s Fictions is audacious. A mesmerising fantasy, a sensuous, oneiric landscape that reaches past the process of watching film. A story you will experience rather than follow (in the usual sense), almost as if a forgotten synapse has been tweaked and brought to life. Like a new bardo. A fresh, entrancing mythology. ‘Fictions’ that, like ideas and meanings, can quickly solidify in new and unexpected pathways.
A girl called Thursday opens a suitcase – the “briefcase of her brain” – and from it flow dancing trinkets. A little later, she has come home to die. She wants the dances buried with her in the daring hope that they too might be reincarnated. On Friday, the trinkets become landmines instead of pearls.
Thursday’s Fictions is by turn beautiful, unsettling or inspiring. It is visually ravishing and, at times, scary. Conceptually and cinematically, it is no less than a work of genius. I don’t think I can remember a time when I wished I had more than five stars to give a film. Quite simply, it is the best piece of cinema I’ve seen this year.
Director Richard James Allen says the work is: “inspired by what Richard Wagner dreamed for Opera – the idea of a ‘Gesamkunstwerk’ – a total or complete artwork – a shared space framed by a unified goal, theme and story which allows different artforms to work together in concert towards an immersive sensory whole.” The usual method of criticism is to dissect. But the accomplishments of the parts cannot compare to the sum of the whole. To carry such an unusual story forward with a conviction that never wavers or fails to engage for an instant. But let that not stop me from commenting on some of the parts.
Thursday’s Fictions makes a new theatre of dance within storytelling – I especially enjoyed the scene where a dancer named after another day of the week brings the Thursday dancers back to life. The swirling golden costumes, and their human forms, perfect emanations of golden light - the twinkles or ‘trinkets.’ The progression beautifully realised through the magic of cinematic art.
Original music by Michael Yezerski supports the drama but is maybe even more shocking and invigorating in its own right. I found myself imagining the awe and astonishment that first audiences of Stravinsky’s works, for instance, might have felt. (But some of that may have been the synergy of hearing it with such an unusual film.)
The most obvious reading (and overt theme) of Thursday’s Fictions is an extended meditation on ideas of reincarnation. This will not suit everyone and it will no doubt be covered at great length by other reviewers. Instead, I would like to offer the notion that the film also explores the transient nature of dance, and the value of dance.
Susan Sontag once wrote, in her essay The Blow Of The Sublime - conveniently linking the above dichotomy - “There is a mystery of incarnation in dance that has no analogue in the other performing arts.” A dance can never be repeated twice over exactly. There is always a slight change of emphasis or a change of interpretation. It is not that the dancer is so much performing the dance, but that the dancer is the dance itself. Merce Cunningham suggested that dance is a spiritual activity in physical form. Motion within matter. Forever seeking a perfection, perhaps, that it constantly measures itself against.
Various forms of dance notation have been developed, none of them entirely satisfactory. The dance exists inside the dancer. If a dancer dies, only copies or new dances are conceivable. Even a film of dance is little more than an aide memoire. Sitting through live performance, where you could theoretically (at least) almost touch, is one step closer to the experience than just watching a recorded version.
This theoretical framework suggested by Thursday’s Fictions extends into what Sontag called, “a larger rhetoric about human possibility”. The choices we make, and the ideas we select to order our lives. Jotting down a thought so we’ll remember, or why, and how, do we let dreams fade from consciousness so quickly? You may have seen the film Memento, where the protagonist makes constant memos to remind himself. But we all forget at times, sometimes only for those thoughts to return with blinding force. Which thoughts come back like rays of joy and which like dark nightmares? Thursday’s Fictions, which introduces itself as a ‘cautionary tale,’ has Thursday set off the seven nightmares in a row, seeking to escape the cycle as if playing a game of poker.
It might be the Pan’s Labyrinth of dance, but the short running time of Thursday’s Fictions also reduces the likelihood of wide general release. If you cannot find a showing, I suggest you petition your local cinema to contact the Thursday’s Fictions website and demand a screening.Reviewed on: 29 May 2009