Lucy (Sophia Woodward) is a sexually repressed young woman living under the weight of a patriarchal small Iowa town in a loveless marriage and working a thankless job. After a mechanic who works for her father forces himself on her late one night, something awakens inside Lucy, that something seems to add breath to a nightly visit she receives from a mysterious and beautiful woman who haunts the woods outside her home.
Written and directed by Brazilian director Monica Demes, a 2015 alumna of the David Lynch MFA program who received mentoring from Lynch himself in the making of this film, Lilith's Awakening is a psychological horror film weaving together elements or horror into a sort of feminist manifesto both meditative and empowering. The film is set for its premiere on June 11th at the iconic TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood as part of Dances With Films. Lilith's Awakening has already been honored with awards from the Iowa Motion Picture Association including - Best Direction - Long Form (Demes), Best Cinematography (Gregor Kesal), and Best Actress (newcomer Sophia Woodward).
Demes is an awarded Brazilian filmmaker whose animated short Halloween caught Lynch's eye and he personally awarded her entry into the coveted MA in Film at the University MUM, in Fairfield, Iowa in 2014, where she shot the programs first feature film Lillith's Awakening.
Trust me, Lynch's faith in Demes' immense talent has been massively rewarded.
Lilith's Awakening is, in essence, a meditative re-imagining of the classic Dracula tale that draws upon that tale's classic characters in manifesting Jonathan Harker, Lucy, Abraham Van Helsing and Renfield. The decision was made to use the name Lucy, instead of Mina, because "Lucy" means light. While in the classic Dracula it is the Prince of Darkness who kidnaps Lucy to the underground, in Lilith's Awakening she is instead caught by the pure essence of femininity, a woman vampire.
Demes was guided by Lynch while writing her script, using Transcendental Meditation techniques to help delve deeper into consciousness. The result is a script and a film that is meditative in presentation, emotionally resonant and enveloping, yet devoid of the many judgments we so often tie to such emotions. In many ways, Lilith's Awakening is an experiential film in that it feels like we're going along with Lucy and, in some cosmic way, companions in her journey.
Newcomer Sophia Woodward is electrifying as Lucy, capturing both her vulnerability and blossoming strength. Woodward avoids any semblance of pretense in her performance and brings Lucy to life before our very eyes. Brazilian pop singer Barbara Eugenia is otherworldly as Lilith and also contributes the film's closing credits song. Steve Kennevan, as Abe, and Matthew Lloyd Wilcox, as Arthur are also terrific.
D.P. Gregor Kesal takes the film's mostly monochrome palette and creates a wonderful world both gothic and rural. Who even knew you could create rural gothic? Kesal has done it.
David Feldman's original music is practically a world unto itself, while kudos most also be given for Mary V. Sweeney's art direction and Andrea Acker's costume design.
Dances With Films seems to be the ideal place for Lilith's Awakening to premiere, a film festival devoted to edgier cinema and a festival that so often announces exciting, new filmmakers to the world. Indeed, while I have no doubt that Demes has many more films in her future I already can't wait to see what she comes up with next.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic