Leda | Film Threat

Apr 12, 2023

Leda has no dialogue in it. I don’t mean that in a silent movie way, with the dialogue showing up as interstitials. Screenwriters Wesley Pastorfield and Samuel Tressler IV have told their version of the ancient Greek myth with no spoken words or texting representing such. Instead, they turn the story into pure cinema, an experience that cannot be replicated in a different medium without severely altering the finished product. But does that mean it is interesting?
Directed by Tressler IV, the thriller is set in a nameless past. There are no horseless carriages to be found, but the costumes and art design seem to be a hodgepodge of the 16th-century through late 1800s styles. In this surreal, black-and-white land lives Leda (Adeline Thery), who is dealing with a tragedy. In her isolation, Leda replays the horrific events, which involve a scenic pond in soothing woods, a swan, sex, and pregnancy. As the days pass, Leda becomes unable to move past what happened, and it is driving her mad. A funeral procession, a hunting party, a baby, and nightmares all come into play as well.

“…a scenic pond in soothing woods, a swan, sex, and pregnancy.”
Recapping the narrative of Leda is beside the point, as this is not a film interested in a traditional arc or three-act story structure. Instead, Tressler IV wants to evoke feelings, good and bad, wow with the visuals and allow audiences to revel in Thery’s largely one-person show. On each of those fronts, the film delivers. Thery is compelling, her big, expressive eyes conveying much in just a glance. Andre Barros and Björn Magnusson’s haunting but melodic music also do their fair share. When the music is at its most striking, and Thery is on screen, the film is as gripping and engaging as any more conventionally told thriller.
But the real star is Nick Midwig’s cinematography. Floating eggs, quick flashes of swans, long-held shots of Leda staring in a mirror, and the hunting party on the move, are all captured. Each scene is captured majestically, crafting a tangible, fantastical world. The effects, all practical (I think), are also well-utilized, seamlessly integrating the more surreal elements without breaking the film’s spell. It’s all so magical and fascinating.
Leda is unlike anything else out there. It is a bold, dazzling cinematic experiment that is as heartbreaking as it is surreal. Thery is stunning, the music is brilliant, and the visuals are the best of the year (indie production or not). While Tressler IV’s approach might turn off more casual filmgoers, cinephiles have the chance to catch a film before its inevitable Criterion release.
For more information, visit the official Leda site.

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