In the opening scenes of MA, we see a woman alone in the desert at night wearing nothing but a faded pink night shirt and a towel over her head. The way she behaves for the rest of the film, you wonder if this isn’t her first day on earth. Or maybe she’s been here since the dawn of time, or it’s some unreal amalgamation of both.
Celia Rowlson-Hall directs, writes, choreographs and stars in MA. She’ll be at Northwest Film Forum this Saturday and Sunday, February 11 and 12 for the film’s Seattle premiere.
NWFF describes the film like so: “A wordless retelling of the Mother Mary story rendered purely through physical and emotional movement, MA unfurls across a Southwest road trip.”
Having this knowledge in hand at the start helps to put the picture a little more in focus. Personally, I can be a linear, traditional observer of cinema. Knowing that the characters will never speak helps to alleviate any gnawing expectations one may have for the film to start already.
Here’s a somewhat irrelevant example of what I mean: Once, I reluctantly agreed to watch one of Paul Walker’s last films, Vehicle 19. The movie begins in a rental car and quickly becomes a bland thriller. “Compromise,” I said. “We’ll watch the film up until they get out of the car.” Of course, the gimmick of Vehicle 19 is that the entire movie takes place in the damn car.
In stark contrast, MA is never boring, because the title character and the man she meets on the road (Andrew Pastides) continually behave in ways that defy our expectations. She meets the man in the middle of the road late at night. She climbs onto the hood of his car. He puts out his cigarette, lights a bush on the side of the road on fire, then tenderly drives her to a roadside hotel. And the hits just keep coming from there.
Besides the surreal quality, it’s the discordant score, the lush set design (particularly in the closing scenes) and the character’s jilted, dancer-like movements that make this picture something special.
I saw MA directly after a screening of the schlocky new horror film Rings. (Not exactly a palate cleanser, but film critics can’t always choose.) After a dumb horror that insults the viewer by over-explaining every action, MA‘s poetic delivery was just the change of pace I didn’t know my mind was craving.
MA makes its Seattle Premiere with the filmmaker in attendance at Northwest Film Forum this Saturday, February 11 at 8pm and Sunday, February 12 at 4:30pm.
Tickets are available online