A scorching sun. A Western route. A man in a car, destination unknown. A woman, seemingly aimless, offering purpose and direction and yet nothing at all. She is our modern day Madonna - and I don’t mean the musician. I’m speaking biblically. Celia Rowlson-Hall’s debut feature “MA” is a dreamlike journey, probably unlike anything else offered on film in recent years. Be warned, though watching is a challenge, patience will reward you with imagery, dancing, and genius that are far from the expected. With “MA”, you’ll find just what you need below the surreal simmering surface of creation.
Rowlson-Hall’s unconventional offering attempts to follow the story of a modern day Virgin Mary, making her pilgrimage across the Western landscape - the desert. End goal? Both Las Vegas and birth. The Creation of our Christ Figure. Sound strange? Well, only silent choreography and movement lead the journey. Looking for words? Literally, try the Bible. But if you’re looking for something different, almost transcendental, that doesn’t utilize the moving image medium the way we’ve all narratively become accustomed to, then “MA” might be right up your alley.
Our “Mary”, donning an XL T-shirt and cowboy boots, traverses across the baron land, the heat almost permeating off the screen. She encounters a troupe of bizarre characters along the way - some oppressive, some impressive. Her companion for much of the journey is Daniel, your gentle, average man (played by Andrew Pastides) - a sort of “Joseph” if you will. After the two are separated later in the film, she becomes both characters, masculine, preserving the tendency of this film to steer a bit off course from how we usually perceive Mary’s story.
Every movement, costume, setting, and character becomes important to note, jumbled up and left to beautifully come together in one of the most bizarre cinematic puzzles I’ve ever witnessed. Celia Rowlson-Hall created a dance-based ode to spiritual concepts that translates if you know how to tune to this very particular frequency of storytelling. Try to join Rowlson-Hall’s pilgrimage blindly and silently - let feeling guide your way and emotion help you through this film. Give into the surreal nature with an active mind and patient eyes. Trust us, it’s not an easy thing to digest. But if you’re looking for a festival fare challenge, beautifully shot and uniquely staged, get acquainted with “MA”, well, ASAP! A true visionary work of art and inspiring voice, further cementing Celia Rowlson-Hall on our one-to-watch list.