Asif Kapadia’s film based on the acclaimed production of English National Ballet, choreographed by Akram Khan
As the director of many well-known films such as Senna, Amy, or The Warrior, this recent film by Asif Kapadia is an entirely different kind of project. Creatures comes from his choice to make a film from a contemporary dance production by the English National Ballet, choreographed by Akram Khan, at a time in which it was being rehearsed but unable to be performed during the height of the pandemic.
With no prior experience with dance, Kapadia found in the performance themes that pertain to his realm of filmography: grief, drama, euphoria, love, and hence describes the project as actualising a film that already existed before him. In fact, as someone who doesn’t come from a dance background myself, I found Creatures to be a highly emotionally engaging watch. Fusing performance, music, and filmography, the talent on screen and that which brings them to our eyes are both made absolutely inescapable.
At heart Creatures is a love story set in a dystopian world. Although the setting is un-specified, throughout there are background references to tangible dystopian truths of our own world, such as to rising sea levels and rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. A sense of the all-powerful nature of a vast and sovereign outer world, which might serve as home to any number of delicate inner worlds, removes any hope for change in this regard and, l found, it largely sets the tone for the whole production.
In the foreground, through stunning sequences of contemporary dance, the core of the story brings forth themes of sexual harassment, war and violence, love and rejection, which are made believable through Kapadia’s ability to draw our attention to details. The deep breathing of the dancers as they focus in a moment of stillness, or the contraction of their muscles as they pose, dance becomes more than movement in space, and is rather conveyed as a manner to witness life on screen.
The fusion of creative forms in Creatures makes one feel the tragic un-fairness of life. Beautiful in many ways, I came out with an appreciation of how dance and film can be extensions of one another.
Review by Michela Giachino
Since studying History of Art at The University of Oxford Michela has continued to pursue her interests in art and culture. She particularly enjoys considering how contemporary and historical art forms are presented to the wider public through exhibitions and viewings at art institutions. Michela’s favourite mediums include photography, film, painting and drawing, and she is always excited to learn about new art.