I knew this film was going to be different. The story of the Virgin Mary, without dialogue, as a choreographic piece and framed as a southern US road movie. And different it was. Writer, director, choreographer and star, Celia Rowlson-Hall attended a Q&A afterward which helped me understand this surreal, movement-based story. Though I’m still not sure why the members of the Village People were carrying motel room furniture across the desert.
More than anything, I admire the spirit behind this movie. It really isn’t narrative, although I can recognise aspects of the biblical story in there. There are some lyrical moments of almost dance-like movement – the soldier gracefully rolling over and over down the sand dunes comes to mind, as does the crumpled piles of white sheets over the motel room beds. I felt lost mostly though, even as I appreciated what I felt was being said about the difficulty of having to carry a task appointed to you in a world that gives you no power.
Rowlson-Hall is captivating as ‘Ma’, filling the screen with her expressive face and lithe movements (and for my readers who are fans of Girls, she choreographed the beach house dance scene). My favourite moment though was the ending where God is a little gap-toothed girl in a white dress singing Amazing Grace and the angels are Las Vegas showgirls. Lovely.
Bechdel test – fail (but only because there is no dialogue)