A FEATURE FILM IN DEVELOPMENT WRITTEN + DIRECTED BY MAVI PHILLIPS
A surrealist, psychological adventure into female sexuality, ‘Echo’ follows a young woman's solo journey of self-discovery through Europe, from Budapest to Paris. She’s haunted by a recurring dream she’s lost in a forest, causing her to search for answer through sexuality and spirituality. As her dreams increasingly intertwine with reality, it’s unclear if she’s losing her mind? Are her new friends in a cult? Or is her new lover pushing her to the edge?
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Mood board for 'Echo'
‘ECHO’ BY MAVI PHILLIPS: LONG SUMMARY
She then finds herself again running through the forest. She stops, turning around, a piglet runs out of a bush. Anais awakes late the next day, confused. Was all of it a dream?
Over the next days, Anais confides in Alice. She explains her turmoil with her recurring dream. Alice tries her best to offer advice, but things only become weirder as Anais’s dreams and waking life grow increasingly intertwined; mystical, referential labyrinths filled with a fantastical exploration of Anais’s own questions of sexuality, fertility, and spirituality. She begins to imagine her new friends involved in dark, sexual rituals. Meanwhile, the closer she and Yves physically become, the more her recurring dream slips into her encounters with him. Frightened, she distances herself from Yves, only making him more interested. And it becomes unclear, is she loosing her grip on reality? Are her new friends in some sort of a cult? Or is Yves pushing her to the edge?
Alice recommends she visits her spiritual healer, who practices Psychomagic. Heeding her advice, Anais visits the healer. During their visit, he carefully listens to her story, and treats her by smashing a potted plant and replanting it on her hands.
Then one night, Yves erratically hunts Anais down at a party. The two leave in a furry. But when they return to Alice’s apartment, for the first time, Anais is overtaken by desire. As the two entangle in a passionate raucous, images of the forest collide with their sweaty, pulsating bodies.
At dawn, while Yves lies asleep, Anais packs her belongings, and departs to a small town in the countryside. She locates the silent sweat retreat on top of a hill. The film ends in a chaotic trance, when still unable to find release, Anais runs out of the ceremony and off into the forest as she lets out a primal scream.
A surrealist psychological adventure into female sexuality, Echo’ follows a young woman, named Anais, on her solo journey of self-discovery through Europe. She’s haunted by a recurring dream she’s running in a forest, with someone close behind. An expression of her own emptiness and confusion in her waking life, she searches for answers through sexuality and spirituality. But as she meets people who begin to shape her life, reality only slips further away, her dreams intensifying.
Hitchhiking through the Austrian-Hungarian countryside, Anais is dropped off in Budapest. She arrives at a bathhouse where she becomes enamored with a man in a heated debate in Hungarian. Later sitting beside him in a therapeutic pool, assuming he doesn’t speak English, she exposes her deepest sexual fantasy and quickly departs, thinking she’ll never see him again.
She continues traveling on to Paris where she meets another stranger, spiritually awakened Alice, who invites Anais into her home and her close-knit group of friends. The group spends all their time together conversing about various spiritualities and obscure rituals. The two woman grow close almost too quickly. Anais is captivated by Alice’s flirtatious, energetic personality, and Alice is overly eager to help Anais. It’s at one of Alice’s dinner parties where Anais accidentally happens upon the man from the bathhouse, Yves, an eccentric ethnographer. At dinner, spirituality is the topic of conversation, as Sylvia, a tall, brunette, captivates everyone with her trip to a sweat lodge retreat.
Yves and Anais sneak out early from the party. They spend a late night exploring the town and each other, leading the two to ignite a chaotic love affair. At sunrise, Anais returns to the apartment to find mysterious scenes of the party guests throughout the house, unaware of Anais’s presence.
ABOUT the filmmaker mavi phillips
Mavi Phillips is an artist and filmmaker dedicated to challenging society’s depiction of women through international productions that are bold, powerful, visceral visual and sensual experiences, which question the borders of reality. Based in Brooklyn, she’s an autonomous filmmaker who writes, directs, edits, and produces her own films and commissioned content under her company Orgone Productions. Her personal films switch between docu-fictions and narrative films, often blurring the two. She has produced these films in France, Morocco, Hungary, Italy, and the USA. Her artwork focuses on performance and conceptual art, which is often translated through photography, text, and happenings. She is currently developing a solo exhibition in New York City. Her works have been published and screened in publications and venues internationally. Her recent short film ‘Pluck’ screened at SFIndie, BSFF in Barcelona, and NRFF in Amsterdam.
Phillips obtained her BFA from Parsons in New York, with a minor in sociology and media studies, and she received a Certificate for Directing and Screenwriting from EICAR in Paris. She’s part of two female collectives based in Europe, Female Narratives, in London, and Photographing the Female, in Copenhagen/Bali. She uses her international and creative community to build work that is integrated in the global movement of female empowerment through storytelling.
DIRECTOR'S LETTER OF INTENT
Using the power of film to treat the totality of the body, I believe cinema can innovate change and guide us to the borders of ourselves. Through Anais’s journey, I want to give a voice to female sexuality outside of morality, while exploring my generation’s conflicted relationship to spirituality. Furthermore, I want to show the parallels between these themes to reveal their interrelationship and collusion in transcendence. By working within opposing extremes, planned/unplanned, fiction/nonfiction, dream/reality, stylized/mundane, ‘Echo’ translates these themes into form by guiding viewers through a visceral psychological journey of self-discovery, exploiting content and form to push the body and mind of the viewer. I want to enter audiences into a subversive symbolic labyrinth by juxtaposing provocative imagery and content, while creating an abrasive physicality and experiential sensuality through the actions of the performers and the replication of the body through visceral visuals and soundscapes. I hope this duplicity will further depict our psychological, reality using scenes, editing, and visual material to show Anais’s inner and exterior world, and in turn reflecting that of the viewers. Believing it’s when pushed to our limits that we discover something, I want ‘Echo' to enter viewers on a journey of self-discovery alongside Anais, inspiring them to discover something more primal and true, within and without.
STYLE + STRUCTURE: TEXTURE + TONE
Treating the totality of the body, ‘Echo’ explores the boundaries of cinema by finding harmony between opposing extremes. The film seeks to awaken the inner self by depicting our psychological reality, shifting between reality and dream states, entering the subconscious. This is reflected directly in the cinematography, which alternates from experiential sensitivity, forming beautiful dreamlike images, to intricate stylization, with composition, color, and design. Further still, the film switches between an abrasive physicality in the actions of the performers and the replication of the body through visceral visuals and soundscapes, to a documentary friskiness that observes the surroundings and real happenings, mixing actors and non-actors to incite unexpected realism. I like to intimately develop my characters with actors, blending their real lives with the fictional. I do this to create immersive performative situations, directly entering actors into experiences to develop something other and deeper on screen, while often pushing their limits to generate a visceral physicality. The aesthetics of ‘Echo’ reflect the tone, alternating between the mysterious psychological depths of human behavior, from jouissance to desire, to the humorous, awkward, banality of life. This is further reflected in the film’s web of influences, from the surrealist journeys of Luis Buñuel, to Jane Campion’s sensuality, and the stylish visceralness of European erotic horror films of the sixties and seventies, to the psychological stories of Michael Haneke and the realism of female stories in Joanna Hogg. I’m also greatly inspired by the theories of Antonin Artaud ‘Theatre of Cruelty.’ who advocated using audiovisual assaults on audience’s senses in order to unravel their suppressed emotions. In all, I hope this mixture of tone, aesthetics, and style in ‘Echo’ will create a unique experience that will capture life as it truly is and provoke viewers from their slumber, inspiring them to look around at the world with new eyes.
STYLE + STRUCTURE: CINEMATOGRAPHY+ PRODUCTION DESIGN
I see my films as a visual dance that is made up of an intricately planned choreography between characters, production design, and cinematography. Production Design is always vastly important to me in telling stories. I value its ability to transport viewers into the world of my characters and to enable subversion with subtle, complex referential visual labyrinths, which allude to the hidden meaning behind the work. With ‘Echo’, I intend to continue to use attention to color to lead viewers through the frames, paying attention to color’s power to create deeper meaning through emotional and physical response. In addition, the design will use signs and symbolic visual references in the carefully designed spaces, objects, and props, which rely on research into art history, mythology and theology, in order to widen the discourse around the film’s central themes. I’m inspired by the visual worlds of Stanley Kubrick and Peter Greenaway, who lead viewers into a thicket of imagery and symbols. Furthermore, the design of the film is influenced by classical paintings in order to heighten its sensuality, through using color, food, and styling, influenced in particularly by Vanitas Still Lifes, which were meant to show you the futility of pleasure and the fleetingness of life.
With the cinematography, the camera is as much a character as those in the film, setting the tone for what is happening. Using stylized controlled framing and movements, I want the cinematography to cocoon the viewers in their own world, while combining the naturalism of documentary through movement of the camera and observation that further play with their sense of reality and truth in the images. I like to create visuals that have multiple depths though using dynamic framing and production design in coordination with the choreography of movements of the character, often using reflection, mirrors, and carefully placed objects to further frame the shots adding complexity and shape to the moving images. Digging even deeper, I want to evoke something beyond the image, something more metaphysical that resonates beyond the superficial storylines and travels further into the depths of what it feels like to be alive, trying to capture that essence of living and our experience that words cannot describe. I attempt to do this through experimentation, pushing to discover more about making images, the film, and ourselves. I want to capture and develop a sense of the metaphysical experience through using artist influenced use of sounds, lightings, and symbols, while using the camera to replicate parts of the body through image and movement of the camera. The influence from painting continues into the cinematography sensitivity use of light and darkness to create a painterly like effect as well as a transcendental feel, while utilizing its importance in shaping meaning.
THEME: FEMALE SEXUALITY
Inspired by surrealism, ‘Echo’ explores uncharted depths of female sexuality by depicting the female erotic gaze, while interweaving dreams and ‘reality’ to enter the subconscious of Anais and viewers. I seek to create a labyrinth of myths and symbolism that act as fantastical exploration of Anais’s internal questions, to investigate the interrelationship of fertility, pleasure, and spirituality, hoping to open up the viewers’ inner self to its own referential semiotics. Anais embodies women’s struggle/confusion about where sexuality fits in their lives - the role of heightened desire and ‘unconventional’ pleasure, the weight of fertility - in a society where women are viewed predominately through the male gaze. Anais is anxious of her carnal desires, considered a negative female characteristic, shown by her revealing her sexual fantasy to a stranger and inability to consummate her new relationship. Her only sexual encounters contain notions of sadomasochism, questioning sexual normality, and the relationship between pain and pleasure. In parallel, Anais’s closeness with Alice and growing sexual tension explores the confusions of affection for both genders. Anais’s dreams are a playing field to decipher these reservations, using imagery rooted in psychology, mythology, theology, and art history, revealing scenes inspired by classical paintings, Venus of Willendorf, and Ecstasy of Saint Theresa. Additionally, the film is influenced by Greek mythology, using myths as psychological archetypes to dig deeper into universal humanity. Anais’s reoccurring dream is based on the myth of Pan and nymphs. Pan is known to represent sexual anxiety and loneliness. His mythology embodies Anais’s own inner turmoil, while the story of his chase of nymphs is mirrored and blurred in her push-pull relationship with Yves, exploring the often erotic game of domination. The characters of Anais and Yves are further inspired by Echo and Narcissus, revealing a common stumble toward narcissistic lovers when discovering ourselves.
‘Echo’ strives to provoke discourse through circular investigations by basing content on personal experience and cultural phenomenons to analyze Western culture. This is further developed in the subtext of spirituality. ‘Echo’ incorporates documentary and ethnography through filming, locations, and themes, while using satire and humor to ignite discussions. This is shown through cultural surroundings like the bathhouse which will incorporate non actors to the conversations of Alice and her friends dissecting various rituals, which are from my own experiences. The group’s ‘secret cult’ is influenced by George Bataille’s Acéphale, formed between the World Wars, and the Roman Bacchanalian Cult, known for its barbarous behavior, to explore the realm beyond society’s boundaries, and transform the incessant spiritual questioning into fantastical satire. Additionally, Anais’s visit to a healer and a sweat shack are used to highlight the trend of Westerners’ appropriation of various cultures’ rituals. Having Native American heritage, the sweat shack appropriation is intricate. I don’t want to give answers or make judgements, but rather asks many questions in the hopes of opening a discussion on spirituality in our lives. In addition, I hope the dramatic shifts in content and form, will make apparent the subjectivity of reality, at a time when the fact and fiction of our political and journalism realm has reverted. I hope this will stimulate an awareness that society is forever wavering, subjective to culture and time, and to be conscious of this ephemerality.
The themes collide when Anais consummates her relationship with Yves. Anais’s exploration climaxing as her dreams collapse into reality, intermixing imagery of sex, violence, sacrifice, pleasure, paralleling spiritual and erotic ecstasy, and showcasing the sacredness of sex. Anais departs in the night to the retreat, countering the traditional film objective of a woman living happily-ever-after with a man, and rather discovers the answers she’s looking for are within herself. At the end, Anais runs out of the ceremony into the forest, like the forest of her dreams, it represents the primal self within, an innate desire to shatter our limits and lose ourselves in the beyond. She releases her own primal scream, both of female sexuality and society in a turbulent time. In all, I hope “Echo’ will guide viewers through a cathartic experience alongside Anais, empowering women to find strength within, and everyone with the freedom to be themselves.
'PLUCK': A Prelude Short Film
2017, Casalborgone, Italy; HD video (color, sound), 17:00 min.
On a solo journey through Europe, Anais spends the day in the Italian countryside exploring the local scenery and herself.
SYNOPSIS: A surrealist psychological adventure, ‘Pluck’ follows a twentysomething English woman, Anais, who’s traveling alone through Europe on a journey of self-discovery, searching for answers through sexuality and spirituality. Staying in the Italian countryside in a castle, now a hotel, she’s drawn to Thiago, a young escort of an older woman. As she spends the day wandering, she explores the village and herself.
DIRECTOR'S NOTE: Wanting to challenge the way female sexuality is portrayed in film, I wrote 'Pluck' to create a cathartic surrealist journey that takes into question society and reality. Examining cinematic storytelling, the film shows the inner and exterior worlds of Anais to reveal the multiple levels of reality by which we live, while using Italy’s cultural landscape to investigate Westerns’ fetishization of traveling for self-discovery, while giving a voice to female sexuality outside of morality, examining the female erotic gaze and cinema’s innate voyeurism.
PRODUCTION: MONFILMFEST, Immagina, associazione di cinema e arte varia, Casalborgone, Italy and ORGONE Production, USA
More information about 'Pluck' can be found here.
Full Film available to watch here (pw: pluck).
Stills from 'Pluck'
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT 'ECHO':
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FRANCISCO MIRA GODINHO | Intendente Productions
MAVI PHILLIPS | Orgone Productions
www.orgone-productions.com ; wwww.maviphillips.com