Her Magnum Opus
See Her Magnum Opus at the Dance on Camera Festival Saturday, July 21 at 3pm. Link to tickets on the Dance on Camera Festival website
Her Magnum Opus, a film by Marta Renzi, tells the tale of a creative community of people bonded together by their love of their elderly friend and mentor, played by Aileen Passloff, residing in a cottage by the lake.
Weaving in playful moments of dance movement, the film explores the relationships between the people we become close to and how they affect us. The film begins with Passloff alone in her home surrounded by trinkets and wooden toys. In the following moments, friends begin to arrive at her home from her pregnant dance student, to a flirtatious young couple, to a man and his daughter, and more. Throughout the evening they drink, play games, laugh, and dance together through the scenic backdrop of the cottage on the lake.
Dance vignettes between the different characters start suddenly, effortlessly shifting between choreography and everyday life. One dance begins as three characters are sitting in lawn chairs staring out at the lake, and another playful duet between a couple springs from a picnic in the forest. Scenes of Passloff sitting at a table and fluidly moving her hands balance out the more energetic and lively dance scenes.
More dance scenes that are more choreographed are part of the plotline surrounding Passloff’s character’s former dance career and are shown when she teaches a pregnant student a traditional dance using a shawl as a cape and when she travels to the dance studio to watch two students rehearse a duet.
Her Magnum Opus speaks to the everyday person who has had a mentor, teacher, grandparent, or friend experience health issues. They understand the unconditional love for this person who has done so much for them and the feeling of wanting to give back and celebrate that person’s life. While the film isn’t a dance film about ballerinas or purely about dance, a dance fan can appreciate the addition of movement integrated into the film and the special touch it adds.
It is clear that the old woman is beloved and adored by all her friends and neighbors. As a former dancer she serves as a mentor and former instructor to a few of the characters, who are now dancers themselves.
The film’s scenery is idyllic and calming, while playful at the same time. The characters gather together at a quaint cottage, the beach, and in a forest. The score combines music from a variety of artists but Turkish pan flute player Can Aksahin’s music is especially powerful. It adds to the rustic setting of the film and helps to set the mood of the film in both the playful and more somber moments.
As Passloff’s health begins to decline, the group comes together to celebrate her and are handed down gifts, many of them the trinkets and toys from her home, to prove how much this group of people means to her.
The film shows the beauty of life and community and how it can be celebrated long after a person leaves this world.
HER MAGNUS OPUM continues to be screened at independent film festivals in the US and internationally. Visit and bookmark the webpage for HER MAGNUM OPUS to keep track of screenings near you.
Learn more about dance by seeing dance through dancers eyes in the Picture This Post series, “Choreographers’ Eyes - Dancers Explain Dance”. Watch this video preview of the story here—
About the Author:
Hayley Ross graduated from Ohio University in 2016 with degrees in Dance and Journalism. Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Hayley began dancing at the age of four. She has studied Ballet, Pointe, Modern, Jazz, Contemporary, and African dance and regularly can be found taking dance and Pilates at Chicago's Lou Conte Dance Studio. Hayley has completed internships at CityScene Media Group, OhioDance, the Chautauqua Institution, and American Dance Festival. She currently works in the Marketing department at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago as the Communication Coordinator. Learn more about Hayley at hayleyross.weebly.com