The Other Side of the Underneath

The Other Side of the Underneath ★★★★

Well that was a peculiar experience. Jane Arden's experimental exploration of women's mental health and self-image is a fractured jumble of vivid, disturbing images overlaid with sombre staccato cello and looping, echoing snatches of dialogue. Most of the time it's like being in someone else's nervous breakdown, which I imagine was exactly what Arden was aiming for.

There's no narrative structure as such. Instead we get a mixture of symbolic scenes that don't surrender their meaning easily but instead contribute to a mounting sense of unease. Even an apparently cheery gathering of gipsies and tinkers for a hog roast and a bit of a sing and a dance is undercut with menace thanks to the claustrophobically close camera.

Its roots in avant-garde theatre occasionally show through but, for the most part, I found it quite captivating. I'll definitely be checking out the BFI's other Arden releases.

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