Losing Ground

Losing Ground ★★★★

"The aesthetic moment is, so to speak, after the fact."

Deteriorating relationship as ideological conflict: a philosopher looking for artistic ecstasy and an artist looking for philosophical purity. "Losing Ground" thus has a triple meaning here: both partners are losing the ideological ground that they traditionally used to articulate their worldviews (personal), they're losing the romantic grounding that their relationship was founded on (interpersonal), and they're losing the existential grounding they used to understand their experience of the world around them (experiential). 

Sara is a beloved philosophy professor writing a paper on religious interpretations of ecstasy. Her husband Victor is a painter who just completed a high-profile sale and wants to celebrate by renting a house in the country. Sara is skeptical due to the small town's lack of a substantial library for her to do research, but she relents when she sees the house and its rural beauty. But there's some truth to this conflict that permeates the rest of the film, even if Sara consents to renting the house: Victor doesn't see her desires as equal to his own.

Victor doesn't respect Sara's work, at least not as much as his own, and the ultimate tragic irony here is that he wanted what she already had—and she wanted what he already had. Victor pursues purity in his art: envious of his friend who does abstract painting (in contrast to his landscapes and still-lifes), he forces this purity on his subjects, alienating Celia, his latest muse. Sara, on the other hand, is looking for the ecstasy of artistic endeavors in her research, but she ends up finding it instead in an independent film project rather than with her husband. 

It's clear that there was a genuine connection here at some point, but now they're working at cross-purposes, trying to salvage lives built upon lost ground.

For MPieper
Directorial Debuts | Directed by Women

A bit of a side note maybe, but I absolutely loved the cinematography here. There's not only a uniquely gorgeous color palette, lots of marigold and fuchsia and indigo, there's also a lot of subtle and elegant camera movements. 

There's one scene where Sara and Victor are arguing, and the camera erratically pans back and forth between the two of them, never placing them on screen together at the same time, at first seeming to try and focus on whichever one is speaking but quickly falling behind and helplessly going back and forth until giving up entirely and focusing instead on a flower on the table between them. The camera delivers the characters' emotions, their desire to be the center of attention and their frustration that the other seems to be constantly stealing their spotlight. 

In contrast to this is another scene with Sara and her mother Leila. The camera focuses on Sara, then it zooms out to a medium shot of the two of them, then it zooms in to focus on Leila, then back to the medium two-shot, and finally back to Sara. These movements are calm and patient compared to the volatile movements of the previous scene. The camera places the two women together in the scene, each by themselves, complete in their own individual singularity, but also each with the other, joined together in a joint moment of familial intimacy.

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