Written and directed by filmmaker and author Amanda Kramer, Ladyworld centres on a group of eight teenage girls who become trapped at a birthday party when a strange earthquake partially sinks the house they’re staying in. Cut off from the outside world with no parents in sight, the group gradually descends into a tribal mentality, paranoid that “a man” may be lurking somewhere near. Boasting a vibrant cast of upcoming performers, including Ariela Barer (Marvel’s Runaways), Annalise Basso (Captain Fantastic) and Maya Hawke (Stranger Things), this surreal and provocative exploration of adolescence and companionship goes beyond the realm of insanity to achieve its goals – which will surely be polarising to some.
Although some parallels can be drawn with Lord of the Flies, this project is not intended to be understood as a survivalist story. Rather, Kramer has stated that her film is about “the tension of exterior unwanted sexuality”, when adolescent females become aware that their “body is the object of desire, lust, and potential assault”; a highly conceptual and complex subject matter that the filmmaker grapples with to fascinating effect. One notable way she achieves this is through the excessive make-up worn by some of the girls, which becomes increasingly dishevelled over time. Echoing Kristeva’s conception of the abject, this visual signifier simultaneously denotes these girls’ descent into chaos, with the ensuing struggle for power, and highlights the border between the sexually mature adults they haven’t yet become and the children they still are.
Moreover, much of the praise for this film needs to be directed towards its cast, who each give every ounce of their talent to these physically demanding roles. Basso is particularly captivating as domineering mean girl Piper, with other noteworthy performances coming from Barer and Ryan Simpkins (A Single Man). Unfortunately, their performances are hindered by a poor-quality sound design that makes much of the dialogue unintelligible. The music is another problem: the atonal a cappella chanting forming the bulk of the arrangement – though somewhat effective – is akin to nails on a chalkboard.
Ladyworld’s unapologetic surrealist and abstract presentation may leave a bad taste in the mouths of some audiences; but underneath some glaring technical limitations and a nauseating soundtrack, Kramer’s film is an enthralling and downright bonkers exploration of a subject that requires more attention.
Ladyworld is released in select cinemas on 18th October 2019.
Watch the trailer for Ladyworld here: