At the outset, there is a tradition, that of the virgin under the oaths, still in force in some areas of Albania, rural, who wants that a woman can, if she wants to live under the guardianship of her husband, make the oath to remain a virgin and become man. Inspired by a book containing this custom disturbing, the film-maker Laura Bispori sign with VIRGIN UNDER OATH, a first feature film original, moving, and formally very successful.
What to emphasize in the first place, it is the singularity of the treatment. The director is not attached to the political dimension or the issue of transsexuality that could give rise to such a subject, but portrayed as universally the conquest of freedom, emancipation body, which goes beyond the simple opposition masculine-feminine. The starting point is very mysterious and we only discover that later the reasons for such a transformation. This ancestral tradition is a way of speaking of the quest for identity, one that is more universalistic than the only social component of this practice.
We follow two segments of the life of Mark / Hana : on the one hand, his arrival in Italy with his childhood friend, is the reconquest of her femininity and the other, in the form of flashbacks, his adolescence in the mountains of albania and its transformation from a woman into a man is, the loss of her femininity. The film works as well in a very subtle way to binary.
First of all, the work presents the obvious opposition between the rural mountains of albania and the urbanity of the Italian life, between a natural world and a modern society, both of which are exposed to very fair way. The filmmaker does, in fact, at no time a portrait to charge one or the other of the regions, but is interested in the discomfort of the heroine to live in those two spaces. This last seems to be in tune with nature and rural life of the mountains but refuses the submission entity that this life entails. The other hand, the urban space is seen as aggression but a state of mind libertarian of the city will allow for its postage. It is his fidelity to the mountains in albania, to ‘his’ land, which, while it had the possibility of escape, and will force them to stay. In this way, the work echoes the film, a colombian who received the camera d’or at Cannes this year, The earth and the shadow, which demonstrated to him also how is the attachment to land could sometimes be stronger than the promise of a comfortable life.
It is then the heroin itself, both a man and a woman, timid and bold, moving and cold, which is evidence of an antagonism the absolute. And imbues it with a complexity and a duality essential to the role, Alba Rohrwacher delivers a performance as actress incredible and is very much in the success of the character. The protagonist acquires, moreover, little by little the self-confidence necessary to discover itself, its desires, its cravings. The omnipresence of the snow mountains and the water of the Italian city (the daughter of his friend because of the synchronized swimming), then, are the symbols of a frozen body, which little by little comes to life.
“A brilliant first feature, remarkably controlled, delicate, disturbing, and assisted by a smart and singular.”
This omnipresence of the snow and the water (symbol of purity) also resonates in the staging. The latter, discrete and clean, is advised by a diffuse light and plans elegant, clear, without frills. A simple camera to the shoulder, which leaves virtually no heroin, facilitates empathy with the character. Similarly, the tension in the story created by the gradual discovery of the purpose of Hana (in flashbacks) to keep the viewer’s attention during the 1h30 of the story. However, at times, the silence and the coldness of the heroine leave us at a distance, this flat being overtaken by a final scene of the most distressing, where the character gives subtly to see his emotions.
VIRGIN UNDER OATH is therefore a brilliant first feature, remarkably controlled, delicate, disturbing, and assisted by a smart and singular.
THE OTHER OUTPUTS OF SEPTEMBER 30, 2015
• Original title : Vergine Giurata
• Realization : Laura Bispuri
• Screenplay : Laura Bispuri, and Francesca Manieri
• Main actors : Alba Rohrwacher, Flonja Kodheli and Lars Eidinger
• Country of origin : Italy / Albania
• Released : September 30, 2015
• Duration : 1h27
• Distributor : Pretty Pictures
• Synopsis : Hana grew up in a small remote village of Albania, where the fate of women is not enviable. In order not to live under male domination, and she chooses to bend to the ancient tradition : she made the oath to remain a virgin forever and live as a man. Virgin under oath follows the trajectory of a woman to her freedom, beyond the overwhelming mountains of albania and to Italy.