In a dark room, a man sees a video of himself dancing projected on a series of semi-transparent curtains. Slowly, he reaches out. He pulls back the first curtain and bunches it up, rippling his own image—yet the video continues on the curtain underneath.
In This Life, a dance film directed by Bat-Sheva Guez starring Robbie Fairchild, is ostensibly about grief. “I’m fascinated by the concept of dance having the ability to convey our humanity when words fail,” said Fairchild, “And what part of our humanity is more powerfully complex than loss?”
WNET All Arts Presents a Setting-Focused Dance Film
Though Fairchild is always on camera, he’s by no means the only point of interest. In just twelve short minutes, In This Life follows him through an empty room, a church, a restaurant, a bathroom, and the ocean. The transitions are abrupt, often with close-ups of his face, pulled in different directions by various pairs of hands, in between. Each space informs the movement—the dancers stand on church pews, or splash water towards each other. The locations are visually stunning and the polished camerawork can feel like a dance in and of itself.
During the scene in the church, Fairchild is joined by six other dancers. The ensemble moves perfectly in unison, like a many-headed sea monster. At times their eyes point sharply towards Fairchild, at times they ignore him completely. It’s the most athletic and fully fledged dance sequence in the film, and in this viewers mind, a high point.
Viewers may find themselves slightly unnerved by some of the ghostly figures in the film. In the ocean, the other dancers wear some sort of pale mask, erasing any facial definition but leaving empty eye-holes. In the bathroom, a mud-covered being climbs from Fairchild’s own shirt to enter into a brief pas-de-deux. Presumably the dead person he is grieving for, the figure gives off an air of being half-decomposed.
For those who enjoy a clean-cut narrative free of symbols or metaphors, the film could feel excessively heady. The hands, the masks, the curtains, the church… Why are they all there? How do they relate to grief? If, however, you either enjoy asking “But what does it mean?” or are content to enjoy beauty without worrying about meaning, In This Life may be worth your time.
Directed by - Bat-Sheva Guez
Written by - Bat-Sheva Guez & Robbie Fairchild
Starring - Robbie Fairchild
Choreographers - James Alsop, Warren Craft, Robbie Fairchild, Andrea Miller, Christopher Wheeldon
Cinematography - Giacomo Belletti
Production Design - Karen Weber
Performers - Kathleen Laituri, Heather Lang, Rico Lebron, Martha Nichols, Michael Rosen, Ahmad Simmons, Ryan Steele, Abby Stephensen, Cassandra Surianello, Julien Valme
Starting on August 5, IN THIS LIFE will be available for free on TV and on the ALL ARTS website.
Images courtesy of WNET ALL ARTS.
About the Author:
Fiona Warnick is a Creative Writing major at Oberlin College. She has dabbled in ballet and theater, and speaks semi-passable French. Born and raised near Amherst, Massachusetts, she enjoys reading middle grade fiction and hiking in her spare time. She is trying to get better at Scrabble.