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A magical short film

Susanna Leinonen is a choreographer in whose works the visual aspects and the soundworld are on an equal footing with the movement, although up until now her original movement language has been the strongest element that sticks in one’s mind. In her new solo work Grain, however, this has been reversed. The work is like a short film whose overall vision lives on after the curtain has closed. The actual choreography on the other hand doesn’t leave such a clear imprint.

The film naturally has a leading role – the character that is sensitively interpreted by Leinonen herself. The span of the story is this character’s lifespan, or at least the beginning of it. The reason for a certain kind of inconspicuousness in the choreography is that the movement is used successfully to narrate the main character’s emotions and growth.

The movie feeling is mainly due to the looping, repeating, restless, nostalgic music that Kasperi Laine has composed. Similarly, the music works well as a film soundworld in the way that it emphasizes feelings and atmospheres. An even more important reason for the cinematographic feel is the partly animated video material, which has a central role in the work. The pictures of empty factories, hospitals and underground railway tunnels help to interpret the narrative of the piece.

Patient or cyborg

Many people who have seen the work have seen it as the story of a patient. Apart from the pictures mentioned above, this is also due to the costume that was designed by Erika Turunen which includes a calliper on one of the legs. Similarly, the movement language shows a creature slowly groping its way back to life.

I however saw Grain’s story through a catalogue of science-fiction films. The main character in the work appeared thus as a cyborg, half machine, half human. To me, the work was a tale of the character’s growth, a story in which she feels her way after her first steps and begins to delineate herself and her environment by moving. The machine-like, gradually softening and increasingly flexible movement language strengthened this impression.

The creature waiting inside a transparent cocoon to be born that appeared in the beginning of the piece also reminded me of science fiction, and the shape of the cocoon resembled an alien of some sort. In the same way the surprise element at the end, water suddenly pouring from the ceiling, was in my opinion a reference to another classic in the same genre, Bladerunner. The empty and dark urban images of the video material in their own way create a picture of a world that has survived nuclear destruction. The cyborg creature is born in the midst of this emptiness. Marianne Lagus’ (b. Nyberg) monumental lighting design lent weight to this impression, especially at the start.

Together with her team, Leinonen has created an impressive vision, an enchanting world. Right at the end, however, the magic disappears a little. When the previously-mentioned waterfall gushed surprisingly down from the ceiling, it was, structurally, the place for the climax. This was however only partially realized.

The refreshing flowing water, the sign of spring, is such a powerful element that the slight physical changes that happen to the character are disproportionate to its power. In order for this touching short film to achieve a real climax, greater changes would have to be revealed in the main character: opening up, collapsing, some kind of humanisation. Then the work would have scored a direct hit.

Piia Ahonen
Tanssi Journal 3/2008