Nominated for: Best Feature Debut
Her Composition is a surprisingly positive, while brutally honest, depiction of womanhood and the escort industry. Using various creative mediums, the story follows the breakdown of composition student Malorie’s (Joslyn Jensen) regimented life, who is left without a job, boyfriend, or her original composition after the first ‘movement’.
The further three movements follow the inspiration she finds becoming an escort, with her new composition drawn as much from the city as from her clients, each of whom are fairly unique in their identity. The enigmatic Kim gives her this list of clients, whom she has given ratings to without judgement, and who describes her first client as a ‘romantic’. Starting with him, Malorie then makes her way through the rest of the more varied clients. The film, and Malorie, look at these men candidly – from the touch of humour with the client who ‘likes tights’ but who we realise is the one that likes wearing them, to the one who sings ‘row, row, row your boat’ to her. There is a frank honesty in this film, where men are portrayed in a predatory way but instead become the object of a female gaze and the conventional tables are turned. In this fact alone, there is something unique about Her Composition, which is neither funny nor depressing, never safe but never bleak. Sitting in its impartial place, writer and director Stephan Littger says that the film is used to show us that ‘we are all composers’, and the mixing of art forms throughout elevates the unsavoury characters to the position of muse.
“neither funny nor depressing, never safe but never bleak”
While Malorie’s character ends the film with more than a touch of madness, she has also broken free of regimented norms, of the moral boundaries between right and wrong. Joslyn Jensen excels in her embodiment of the character, allowing the film to have touches of comedy throughout, a violent encounter, and her descent into an art-fuelled madness. Her ability to steer the audience through these various dips is integral to Her Composition, which not only focuses on her character but also sees the world in her view. In this, Jensen is a stunning example of the perfect casting.
Stephan Littger’s editing choices create a form that follows the storyline in breaking with traditional expectations. The film starts in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1, a traditional size for television, then after the first act – and the breakdown of convention in the second movement – leads to a ratio of 1.85:1, a wider format that is perhaps used to show Malorie widening her horizons. Throughout, there are parts where the editing is perhaps a bit rough, but this only adds to the rawness of the movie. Its unflinching characterisation of Malorie and her clients, and the voice it gives to the female gaze is, unfortunately, a refreshing take but hopefully one that will influence future films.
Image: Stephan Littger 2016