"Immature poets imitate, mature poets steal" - T.S. Eliot
This T.S. Elliot quote is the statement at the crux of Jordan Blady’s new feature film, Softness of Bodies. However, the film is less concerned with this quote’s commentary on plagiarism than its illumination of the innate destructive power of an artist.
Softness of Bodies follows Charlotte, an American poet living in Berlin, as she works to create a poem that she hopes will win her a prestigious grant. Played perfectly pouty and petulant by Dasha Nekrasova, Charlotte is her own worst enemy. We watch as she repeatedly endures hardships that are results of her poor decision making. Slowly, it is made clear that this is not by coincidence. The continual chaos in Charlotte’s life is used as fuel for her artistry. Things must be destroyed in order for her to create.
Such a heavy theme is supported with paradoxically light accoutrements. The techno ambient original score by Aaron Short dazzles against brooding imagery, keeping everything feeling fresh. The cinematography offers the same contrapuntal theme, shooting dirty decrepit rooms with warm golden tones and deep luxurious shadows.
The film is at its best when it’s not taking itself too seriously. The dry and quirky conversations between Charlotte and her ex-boyfriend, Oliver, played with an understated comedic sense to great effect by Morgan Krantz, give the film all of its character.
Dramatic plot points near the end come off as contrived and overly dramatic against the dark but fun backdrop of the rest of the movie. *SPOILER AHEAD* Fortunately, the film finds itself again with a startlingly pure and masterfully revealing poem Charlotte delivers in the last scene.
Softness of Bodies delivers an intellectual character study that uncovers the dark side of what it takes to be an artist. This theme is explored in a fun and and idiosyncratic way that makes it accessible to both casual viewers and film connoisseurs alike.