Thursday, September 17, 2015

Spirited Melancholy

The long bands that had tied her pointe shoes safely together, carrying her through elevated routines, are unraveling. Mia will never dance again, never again feel elated, losing herself in the moment, freed from gravity.
This scene is a peek into Galia Barkol’s new film Then What Happens, still simmering in its pre-production phase. Barkol dares to ask tough questions about our existential nature: who are we, really, when we are stripped of others' preconceived expectations of us and our own? How are we labeled by our chosen path, and how can we recover the true essence of our being independent of that course? Barkol’s film is a quest for answers to the question of what defines us - as artists and people - when the roles and circumstances that we identify with are taken from us.
Israeli born, New York based filmmaker, writer, and actress, Galia Barkol, is the film’s creator and star. Barkol deeply identifies with Mia, the lead character whom she plays, viewing her portrayal of Mia as a chance to uncover thought-provoking, deeper layers of their shared emotional state of being. Barkol saw an opportunity in the idea of the transitional artist to explore facets of her own identity as a multi-talented artist, and specifically as an actor. Barkol describes: "The film asks 'who am I without my story'...the magical thing which drew me to acting, and the theme, appealed to me for the film. As an actor you have to be many, diverse characters, but also none. In that way it’s a similar process, of stripping yourself bare, so your essence can still shine through under any circumstances." As a symbolic exercise to explore these ideas, Barkol created an Instagram for Mia, using it as a vehicle to develop her vision of the film and her discovery of Mia's character.
Barkol says: “While I am not a dancer, I admire that art form and chose it to communicate how an artistic career, meant to express your inner self, easily overtakes one’s whole identity. What we do becomes such an inseparable part of us, especially in a society that always encourages us to find purpose, to move on and recover swiftly; barging on to successfully and dutifully reach our goals, we often forget the getting there that really counts.”
The film aims to show Mia in this vulnerable state, feeling as though she has lost who she is by having lost what she is. The film is about the internal aspect of being 'in process:' starting with an empty space, and filling it with deeper meaning. Mia must discover the layers of her identity when she is no longer able to practice her art form.
“The choices we make are so often subconscious," says Barkol, yet her artistic voice carries tenacity throughout the nascent project's presentation. Barkol's “what if?” questions stir the imagination into an unconscious territory of melancholy, transporting her characters to an existential place from which true transformation can come to pass. 
With Mia, a dancer whose budding career is stopped abruptly in its tracks by injury, Barkol asks: "What happens if we have lost the hope of reaching what we have set out for? Do we just forge forward to the next best thing? How do we deal with this particular loss, how much of that feeling of loss is external to ourselves?" The film explores Mia’s coming to terms with the limbo of having to let go of an all-encompassing identity. Barkol seeks out opportunities for her character to examine deeply-rooted anxieties, social mores, and expectations in a milieu of random situations. Mia finds herself immersed in Origami, an art form she would have deemed trivial in her former life. With nothing to prove, nor any ambitions to improve herself, she finds inner calm and refuge in the minutae. Engrossed in an art form so arbitrary and markedly different from the dancer’s previous regimented and high-strung lifestyle, Mia experiences the calming impact of a peaceful resort – where she has nothing to prove or improve upon – and comes closer to her inner self in the process.
This subject of randomness is also accentuated in the relationships portrayed in the film. Often, as Barkol points out, our random relationships are the ones that let us experience an uninhibited possibility of connection with 'the other,' and ultimately with ourselves. Barkol speaks to the safe haven of anonymity, and its ability to allow us a unique chance at pure, honest intimacy. The other main character featured in Then What Happens is Justin West, a travelling businessman. Barkol observes his and Mia’s relationship under the magnifying glass in the film. It’s not a romantic relationship, but the pairing conveys one’s capacity to develop a deep connection to a stranger, that while often only temporary, can shift one’s perspective and enable one to see his or herself through another’s eyes. At its core, the film’s narrative circles around the susceptibility of our internal selves towards accepted clich├ęs of who we believe we must be, and explores ways that we can carve out a space in our conscience that holds true to who – rather than what – we are.      
Gleefully taking risks and baring their souls, Barkol’s characters show, rather than tell, stories about the weight of seemingly inconsequential encounters and random choices during the process of finding one’s true self. Beyond the scope of time, they carry the message of a young generation forced by unlimited choices to look into a fragile place of the id in an attempt to identify what truly bears meaning and lasting joy. Watch a trailer for the movie here.

About Galia Barkol: NYC-based Israeli actress, writer and filmmaker, Galia Barkol has a multidisciplinary soul and international background. She is passionate about filmmaking, screenwriting, music, and mostly about bringing round, complex characters to life - characters that are often nudged to reconsider questions that had been answered too soon, too fast.
Galia founded Ring the Bells Productions in 2013 - an avenue for her to marry her passions for Cinema, Language and the Performing Arts, to express her voice fully and explore new territories. Read more.