Body identity and gender politics are some of the most analysed themes in modern cinema. It’s becoming difficult for fresh and original thought on such subjects to find its way to the big screen. Laura Bispuri’s debut feature Sworn Virgin, while not revolutionary, does make a bold and refreshingly thoughtful statement.
The current darling of Italian cinema, Alba Rohrwacher, is a major asset as the leading role of Hana, a silent, cross-dressing Albanian girl. The mysterious premise is based on a tradition of the Albanian mountain people, where men are the dominant sex and women are secondary. The only way for a girl to obtain a man’s freedom is to permanently renounce her femininity and to swear never to have sex, thus being recognised in the community as male.
We follow Hana’s odyssey of discovery as she travels to Italy to reunite with her sister, who escaped the confines of the archaic community years earlier. While Hana’s journey is at times painstakingly slow – a series of long contemplative gazes through mirrors work as portals for her to transcend into this new western way of life – it is a fascinating journey.
Structured as a series of flashbacks, the story jumps from her desolate existence in the snowy mountains to the greater freedom of the progressive Italian metropolis. Each moment and painful memory is seen with genuine feeling – exquisitely captured by director of photography Vladan Radovic – and this sense of realism should also be attributed to a moving score from acclaimed composer Nando Di Cosimo.
Sworn Virgin is a film that documents a transformation, it’s an examination of sexuality and tradition, leaving the audience satisfied and hopeful.
Sworn Virgin does not yet have a UK release date.
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