Orphine-2014-Sarahjane Swan and Roger Simian

Nikola Gocić reviews Orphine, 2014, directed by Sarahjane Swan & Roger Simian 

Collaborating since 2009 on projects in various media, the Scottish duo Sarahjane Swan and Roger Simian produce (alternative) music under the moniker of The Bird and the Monkey, whereas their visual oeuvre has been created under the label of AvantKinema. Wonderful parents and proficient wizards of a long-forgotten Super 8 format, they have conjured up a number of short films which operate as portals into “ghost worlds”, as they put it, synthesizing myths, dreams, nightmares and personal “histories misted by memories”. Processing the expired filmstock in so-called Caffenol, and later manipulating the film by hand, they have achieved incredible results. However, they don’t shy away from utilizing digital cameras and their 2014 fantasy drama Orphine is the proof that the otherworldliness can be captured in HD as well.

Shot on DSLR, this phantasmagoria was initially conceived as a video-art installation, just like their 2012 work Sung To The Crows, but it grew into a powerful and puzzling experimental short of metaphysical beauty. Ms Swan puts her heart, body, voice and soul into the role of the titular heroine whose name suggests the Orphic myth as one of the pair’s sources of inspiration. The legends of the Sumerian deity Inanna are also cited during Orphine’s descent into the underworld, where she has to confront her sister, Death, and bring back “the promise of her belly”. A succinct, elegiac and lyrical story that employs the mother archetype, incantation-like narration and scrolling on-screen text of surreal quality to lead us into the subconscious mind of a strong woman representing all the women of the world. Orphine’s trippy atmosphere is established via sublime, expressively textured images accompanied by a jazzy score which echoes with melancholia, evoking primal emotions.