Until Branches Bend
[…] Jarvis constructs her poiesis with the epic tones and energy of a myth.
[…] «Until Branches Bend» reminds us through its fabula and filmic choices of the power and truth in intuition, being open to the signs, and never underestimating the true force of nature.
Text: Jodie McNeilly-Renaudie
No one in Troy listens to the forewarnings of doom by Cassandra the Priestess of Apollo. Her gift of prophecy is made a curse by Apolllo when she will not sleep with him; her foretelling of Troy’s horrendous fate is ignored by all. When the Greeks finally sack the City, Aias emerges from the wooden horse and rapes her in the temple of Athena. The Greeks are punished for this and are unable to return home for 10 years. Cassandra’s prophecy goes unheeded, but fulfilled. Robin (Grace Glowicki), the heroine of Until Branches Bend, reminds me of Cassandra. She is a grader for a peach factory in her home town of Montagu, Canada. Robin finds a peach with a wormhole and takes the time to cut it open exposing a giant beetle not seen before. Alerting her married boss (and lover who has impregnated her) of the bug, Robin’s discovery is inspected, rinsed, rolled and packed away like the many millions of peaches this thriving agri-business processes for wider distribution. Robin reads the beetle as a sign of something devastating to come.
We are only given the result of her relations with Dennis (Lochlyn Munro), her boss at the peach plant, when Robin spends the entirety of the film trying to get an abortion. Like the bug within the fruit, the embryo grows as an unwanted presence. We get intermittent montages of fecund peaches, ripped open and in various stages of decay. Orange hues saturate scenes, the veneer of certain frames covered in a light fuzzy down like a peach.
Dennis gaslights Robin. Her alarm is extinguished by the men who should care, should do their job and take responsibility for the town. Dennis, like the men in Troy before their fate is sealed, like all the “power over” in history to date, silences Robin: «I don’t want to hear about this anymore».
Robin’s parents’ lives were destroyed along with most of the towns’ by a moth infestation. Its Indigenous population living “downstream” were slowly killed off by the chemical warfare on nature, destroying the immense wealth of the few and the menial jobs picking and packing outside of tourism. Robin, driven by her need to know, alerts the authorities. The farms and plants are shut down and the town turns on her.
There is obvious trauma to not ignore and ignore the bug. Everyone’s fear and vulnerability is palpable, but Jarvis does not play the obvious here. Robin’s character arc is refreshingly not driven by any psychological deficit or discovery. Even the scene at the abortion clinic is not overburdened by emotion. Rather, it gives way to the absurdity of a legal fiction. The abortionist warns Robin of the unscientific, unfounded risks of infertility, breast cancer and suicide from a termination so the procedure can legally take place. This could very well be a warning from Jarvis to nations that have benefitted from the lifesaving precedent of Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973).
Instead, Jarvis constructs her poiesis with the epic tones and energy of a myth. Robin’s pregnancy is a moral punishment from the Gods for her participation in adultery, the beetle plague that eventually engulfs the town some kind of vengeance for destroying the planet. The entire filmic apparatus shares in this construction. The sound composition (Kieran Jarvis) treads superficially behind the characters, far removed from any natural immersion. It harkens back to an age of cinema, or ironically a bad tele-movie, where cello and flute dramatize a feeling with the avoidance of feeling. The incongruencies are heightened by the weighted, non-hysterical acting, whereby flattened naturalism, bordering on the “Mametian style”, is in a sinister dalliance with expressionism. Robin’s miscarriage generates shapes that are an awkward fusion of Bela Lugosi and Mary Wigman’s Witch Dance.
Jarvis holds no punches on exposing the greed and shameful ignorance of the men in this town. Even Robin’s younger sister Lainey’s (Alexandra Roberts) fruit picking, artsy, rich boyfriend from out of town feels the need to mansplain his theories; ideas are symbolically submerged as Lainey disappears under the water mid-sentence. Will she be the generation to finally drown them out?
Until Branches Bend reminds us through its fabula and filmic choices of the power and truth in intuition, being open to the signs, and never underestimating the true force of nature.
Until Branches Bend | Film | Sophie Jarvis | CH 2022 | 98’ | Solothurner Filmtage 2023
Prix de Soleure at the Solothurner Filmtage 2023
First published: February 06, 2023