Official Selection, Berlin Film Festival 2014
Official Selection, Sarasota Film Festival 2014
A headless chicken; the omniscient voice of a woman — or is it the Earth itself speaking to us? The immediate, uniquely surreal atmosphere of a waking pastoral dream is what hits the viewer first, as family man Akin (Joe Swanberg) arrives to a rural and secluded Kentucky farm, where he is working all summer. Leaving his wedding ring in the car, as if obeying some deep-buried impulse, he enters a strange world of lustful glances, desire and sweat in the harsh summer sun. Presiding over this whirlwind of unrestrained, primal emotions, one finds the stern and pigheaded farmer Jeremiah (Robert Longstreet), running the farm with his young, nubile daughter Sarah (Sophie Traub). She actively seduces Akin and a strange triangle forms in the bubble universe of the farm: her menacing father keeps a sleazy, watchful eye over both his daughter and hired hand, as they frolic and explore their forbidden attraction. Several days go by, and when Akin’s wife surprises them with a visit, the situation boils over, and the initial aura of danger turns outright violent and horrific.
The erotic thriller is alive and well in THOU WAST MILD AND LOVELY, nothing short of a revelation, and perhaps one of the most innovative and challenging films of the year. Free-flowing with vital sexual energy and reinventing, in many ways, the language of narrative cinema altogether with its free-form sensory associations and incredible, improvisational style, Josephine Decker’s film is a rare cinematic experience that is felt, rather than seen, through the entirety of the body. Inspired by John Steinbeck’s EAST OF EDEN and described by the filmmaker as “an intimate magical realist erotic thriller… a horror film, a farm drama, a comedy, a sexual romp, and a deep character study,” THOU WAST is indeed all these things rolled into one hallucinatory and unique journey; a film heralding a new, iconoclastic female voice in American cinema that we are proud to showcase this year, alongside a film such as THE MIDNIGHT SWIM (also of this year’s line-up).
Hot off the screens of the 2014 Berlinale, THOU WAST screens with BUTTER ON THE LATCH, Josephine Decker’s medium-length narrative debut. A perfect companion piece, it is another gripping strikingly beautiful story of jealousy, sex and the possible haunting of a Balkan folk music camp, following two old friends reunited following a traumatic experience, and driven apart by passion and ancient myths come to life.
— Ariel Esteban Cayer