Lilt is a contemplative art / dance film by Josiah Cuneo, who also choreographed the piece and composed the music. The title of the film immediately suggests fluctuation; something changeable and erratic; and the tone of the music and the way the narrative is pieced together in snapshots fits with this idea. The music has a jittery, fervent tone to it; at times melodic, at times plucked staccato strings, other times feverish violin.
The narrative was equally staccato; vignettes of the memories of the protagonist, Becky (Barr), as she recalls interactions her ex-boyfriend Sam (Van Berkum), which are interspersed with images of a young woman (Martin) - who is either Sam’s previous girlfriend or other lover - creating screen prints. The film opens with the statement, “I never said goodbye to Sam. Sam was not a good person”, and ends with the voiceover saying ‘Goodbye Sam’ – implying that the events of the film occur in Becky’s memory; that she is working through her issues and saying goodbye to her ex in her head. The handheld camerawork creates a slight sense of seasickness and an anxious, unsettled tone, which seems to reflect the mental state of the protagonist, who is clearly struggling to come to terms with the breakup with Sam, an attractive but narcissistic artist.
The compelling and talented Malin Barr does an excellent job of expressing her character’s interior struggles even when she doesn’t have much dialogue to play with – she is conspicuously silent much of the time whilst Sam corrects and criticises her, and waxes lyrical with his recollections and opinions. The dialogue does at times feel a little more theatrical than realistic, with characters narrating recalled memories rather than interacting about a drama in the present, but it does suits the tone of the piece – as Sam and Becky converse in an expansive theatre space, surrounded by contemporary dancers. From a character and story point of view, it was a little difficult to understand why Becky was drawn to the self-involved and disparaging Sam; and not much information was given about this, other than the suggestion that he is a charismatic artist.
Cuneo is clearly a multi-talented individual, having composed, choreographed and directed, so it will be interesting to see whether he continues with art and dance focused pieces, or whether he will bring his many talents to a piece with a more clearly character-focused narrative. The film’s theatrical, art-film tone might perhaps feel a little niche for some festivals, but overall the piece is interesting and poignant, and would suit a festival or programme with an emphasis on art or the challenges of relationships.
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Written & Directed by: Josiah Cuneo
STARRING: Malin Barr, Ben Van Berkum, Akemi Martin