MOTHER MELANCHOLIA Film Review – A Siren’s Call

A bride takes her wedding veil off, revealing eyes that glower with fear. A woman drags herself across a sunlit floor, tattoos as detailed as the tile she traverses. A dancer pulls thick locks of hair from a messy braid while wearing a bra backwards. Another dances in front of a window in a room filled with expensive furniture and books bound by leather.

Set to and inspired by Sóley’s album Mother Melancholia, the four women begin alone, torn between different rooms and different worlds. They stare fixedly past the camera, rejecting its gaze. A profound sadness permeates every location.

The dancers are framed by beautiful backgrounds: abandoned homes rich with paintings, deep brown and burgundy furniture, mirror-lined walls, curved white archways and spiraling staircases, then sprawling Icelandic icescapes and wildflower fields.

MOTHER MELANCHOLIA Explores Loneliness and Intimacy Through Music and Movement

A lithe dancer, bound by skin-tight and see-through clothing, stands on a stretch of volcanic rock, alone and impossibly small. She is embraced by fog and ice. She tears off the flesh-colored clothes that bind her, and it feels like she is removing her skin. She opens herself to the landscape, interacts with the dirt and mud under her feet, becomes dirty and bloody.

Each dancer’s movement seems dictated by an emotion hidden in her pained face. At first, the women dance like they are puppets on strings; they cannot hold up their heads and they are prone to sudden collapse. As we move through Sóley’s album, their movement becomes increasingly desperate and erratic, but more precise.

The camera is as choreographed as the dancers, and it sweeps over, under, and around the subjects as the unsettling music amplifies. As the dancers’ performances become more unpredictable, so do the camera movements.

As the women descend into madness, they grow closer. They embrace each other in sunlit haloes. They lay together in muddy wildflower fields. They dance underwater holding a circular mirror, looking at themselves and the gentle glints of sunlight the mirror reflects.

This writer found the performances beautiful and alluring, like a siren’s call. For those swayed by the powerful emotions of movement,Mother Melancholia is a visually stunning dance film.


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Samantha Shay
Bettina Wagner-Bergelt
Victoria Sendra


Samantha Shay
Barbara Kaufmann
Chalia La Tour
Breanna O’Mara

For more information and screenings details visit Samantha Shay’s Vimeo.

Images courtesy of Mother Melancholia by Samantha Shay.

Holly Fontanetta

About the Author: Holly Fontanetta

Holly Fontanetta is inspired by narratives that capture the idiosyncrasies of human experience. She has driven absurd distances on a whim in search of character, including two road trips from New York to California. Holly spends her free time hanging out with cats (her own or strays - either is fine) and swimming in the ocean (Atlantic or Pacific - either is fine). Her favorite stories to read and write feature women overcoming extraordinary circumstances. Currently, Holly is learning to paint and filling her walls with strange art.

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