Madeline’s Madeline (2018)

“You’re going to tell the story of the inside of her brain?”

Best categorised as a film of the mind, Madeline’s Madeline hypnotises you with its smeared imagery and swirling editing, evoking the feeling of a waking dream rather than anchoring you to a traditional narrative. Josephine Decker has conjured a film of such unconscious beauty and lyricism, it feels alive in your hands – film as wet clay, the possibilities seem endless. Her trademark affinity for strange POV’s electrifies the entire film. At various points the camera wanders away from its main focus, finding life on the fringes of the frame. We see the city at night, all the lights smudged together like an oil painting in a downpour of rain (or tears) or catch momentary glimpses of lives on the periphery. These seemingly improvisatory flourishes stem from the film’s focus on performance.

At the centre of it all is an attempt to stage a piece of theatre, less a play than the depiction of a certain headspace mounted on a stage. The trio of central performances from Helena Howard, Miranda July and Molly Parker are exceptional, so alive and thoroughly contained by Decker. These aren’t the kind of great performances that overshadow a film, where praise on the actors exceeds praise of the overall work, but rather performances that enhance and electrify the whole into totality. Decker controls so many shades here – beautiful and strange one minute, sickening and mad the other – that her film resembles a great magic trick. I don’t know how she and her collaborators did it, but I don’t want to know either. Extraordinary.

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