“I burn the way money burns”
Directed by Jordan Blady
Starring Dasha Nekrasova, Morgan Kranz and Johannes Frick
Softness of Bodies (2018) is a story of social isolation, narcissism and female sexual identity. It follows Charlotte “Charlie” Parks (Dasha Nekrasova), an aspiring American poet in Berlin, as she tries to keep her life together in the lead up to a poetry grant submission. It is an unexpectedly beautiful piece that will resonate with many who are trying to find their way in life.
Charlie is trying to find her unique identity, her point of difference among everyone else. She feels controlled by her kleptomania but being a criminal separates her from those around her in ways that being a poet, a sexual “deviant” and doing illicit drugs do not. She constantly steals things she does not need and rarely even wears, as although she has new clothes she has stolen, she wear clothes that are worn out and have holes in them. She also does not hide her stealing. She wears the clothes with the security tags still on, a sign that she is different and more eccentric than others.
On her path to find her point of difference, she socially isolates herself. She’s an American who hates Americans living in Berlin without speaking German. She has never felt the need to embrace the country, just use it for its culture to enable her art. Charlie is blunt and avoids social conventions, something that only the isolated can afford;
“What the fuck is discerning auriculars?”
“We are not supposed to ask questions yet.”
“Does anyone else know what that is?”
She rides her bike everywhere she goes or sits alone on a train.
The cinematography is beautifully interesting, captivating us while the characters converse about their love lives. However, it emphasises the space around her, asking us to view intimate moments through mirrors or to watch her from a far as she walks alone or cleans up.
Nekrasova plays Charlie perfectly as she is able to seperate the audience from her character. She is always distant, even in her “vulnerable” moments. It feels like an act exposed by Remo’s (Johannes Frick) reaction to her tears as he laughs when she suggests;
“I should just kill myself.”
The true vulnerability and disclosure of her character is only seen through her poetry which leaves us grasping to find meaning in her abstract thoughts;
“I’m sexy and fun,
and fucking doomed.
I’m afraid of myself, to be honest.
I’m scary and delicate and I don’t want to die at this party.
Whimpering in white shorts, or laughing
manically in my safari hat.”
Her social isolation is rooted in narcissism, the belief that she is different, and therefore better than those around her. Remo calls her out;
“I always pictured you more of a narcissist than a sociopath.”
But evidence of this is embedded in her inability to actually listen to others or give sincere compliments. Remo again accuses her;
“You only listen to me if I am talking about you.”
When her boyfriend is arrested for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, all Charlie can talk about is herself and her poetry grant. This narcissism leaves her unable to connect with others and the only somewhat real relationship she has is with Remo, her gay roommate.
As Charlie is unable to be truly vulnerable with anyone, the men her life take advantage of her, treating her as an object of desire rather than as a person. She wants to be loved;
Whats a girl have to do to find love in this town?
However Franz (Moritz Vierboom), the man who is having an affair with her, refuses to go to a single poetry reading;
“I think Franz loses respect for me every time we have sex.”
Oliver (Morgan Krantz), her ex-boyfriend, cheated on her when he photographed naked women for a living. He disrespects her privacy and refuses to take no for an answer;
“Seriously…How do you know where I work?”
“Aren’t you going to ask me how I am?”
Nathan (Matthias Renger), a friend from her poetry reading club, abuses her after she asks for a favour. All the men in her life, with the one exception of Remo who sees her for who she actually is, see her a sex object – a possession and outlet for their desire. Leaving her without control of her own sexual identity, emphasised by her quoting The Breast, a poem by Anne Sexton;
“What’s wrong with you?”
“I burn the way money burns”
The quote represents a feeling of lack of sexual control, the way money is in no control of how it is spent.
Softness of Bodies has some great comedic moments that specifically target the millennial audience, but it is not a perfect film. The fight scenes feels staged and unconvincing, with injuries far more severe than the fights suggests, however Nekrasova does sell the death with her reaction, convincing us to overlook the unsatisfying fight.
Jordan Blady has created a beautiful film that explores the self and sexual identity. It explores the fine line between finding a unique personality and social isolation through narcissism. Nekrasova expertly plays her egotistic character, which captivates us while keeping us at a distance. I highly recommend Softness of Bodies for your Friday night film night.
Even a life has a price.
but the thing about bodies,
is that they’re soft, and inside
are bones that break and organs that rot,
slowly but inevitably
and money doesn’t stop it.
Softness of Bodies is avaliable on Amazon Prime (USA & UK)
Images provided by TriCoast Studios and Rock Salt Releasing.