Scriptures by Jennifer Sims
Feature Film / Dance Film / Drama
Screenplay by Jennifer Sims
"Scriptures" is a provocative and stimulating dance film telling the story of Melodie, a woman in Tel Aviv feeling trapped in her life – suffering with an embittered relationship and a growing dissatisfaction with her own faith. When she encounters a provoking exhibition about biblical scriptures she is set on a path to painful self-discovery.
"Scriptures" takes place in a dense and, in part, sexually charged atmosphere. It is built on small, well-observed moments that usually might go unnoticed but which are here used to reveal the characters’ complex emotions by dance and movement, resulting in a unique form and visual poetry.
For example, the callousness of Melodie's boyfriend is revealed when he accidentally rips off her crucifix. This crucifix falls into a wastebasket, Melodie looks down and storms out. In the wastebasket, next to the crucifix, the audience now sees a sonogram photo of Melodie’s unborn baby, mixed in the top of the trash.
The artist, the woman who is responsible for the exhibition and enjoys manipulating people, seduces a married man. After having sex with him she intentionally leaves strands of her hair to betray him to his wife.
There is also the bartender who contemplates leaving Israel and is constantly confronted with images of protesters at the border. The audience also watches Jackie, a woman who caringly makes breakfast for a lover only to be left by her in the morning.
All these moments are put into a moral and religious context by the exhibition on biblical scriptures. Our very own everyday behavior is being questioned and forces us to reflect on our values and principles.
Although Melodie is secretly still attracted to the bartender she was seeing at her favorite bar she has always felt obliged to stay with her boyfriend, an unloving and self-indulgent man. Her relationship to him grows more and more fraught, and even the ignored miscarriage of a pregnancy does not seem enough to compel Melodie to leave.
A thought-provoking exhibition about biblical scriptures though changes everything: Suddenly, bound by a new way of thinking, Melodie finds the strength to end the relationship after another row. And, as she soon discovers, this is only the beginning.
Confused by her newly discovered perspective on life Melodie turns to what used to be a cornerstone in her thinking, her religion and faith. But again and again, Melodie finds herself back at the exhibition, fascinated and disgusted at the same time. She cannot escape its revealing irony and, consequently, questions her religious commitment.
Desperately trying to find solace elsewhere Melodie reunites with the bartender. Although there are moments where they truly connect, in the end he pushes her away. Melodie is alone and has to decide how she wants to proceed with the world she lives in.
By Jennifer Sims
"Scriptures" began for me as an exploration of my own observations of religious alienation. As an American military brat of a Catholic Father and Baptist mother I was encouraged to pick my own religion. This allowed me to identify religion as induced behavior led by dogma and an unexplained fear of God. Though I do not think it is a pre-requisite to come from a religious background to tell a story like "Scriptures" I do feel that my religious upbringing and observations, combined with my experience and creative vision, give an interesting perspective for a compelling story.
Fundamentally, I would like this film to satirize interpretations of scriptures of the Bible through movement, allowing the audience to reflect on their own alienation from religion.
I believe that this subject matter is perfectly suited for the feature film format. Our story features many layers and multiple characters, all connected through the exhibit of scriptures. This kind of complexity calls for a time and pace that only the feature film format can provide.
Conceptually, the development of ‘Scriptures’ began, of course, with a selection of provocative Biblical scriptures and finding characters. "The Artist" is at the heart of the story, a woman who is unapologetic and always seeks to set events in motion. She is a rebellious character that doesn’t look for truth or righteousness. Consequently, she is the opposite of a dogmatic follower whose core interest is to find acceptance. It is crucial to present her as an openly flawed vessel using her work to provoke and stimulate criticism, rather than as a preachy narcissist.
I will portray "The Artist" in the film, her Western Christian background matches my own.
The counterpart to "The Artist" is "Melodie", a woman seeking righteousness and whose faith-based belief system, if not outdated, may be misled. As I was developing "Melodie", I wanted her to present as a character I have often seen in Israel and Western countries: Someone who is aware of the fact that scriptures in the Bible have been twisted but who follows them dogmatically anyway – just in case and even if that is not what he or she really wants. I want to make the audience sympathize with her plight while despairing at her stubborn refusal to change.
"The Bartender" (to be portrayed by our Choreographer Fabien) is the third element in our triangle of conflict. He serves to mirror alienation. He is the impetus for Melodie to change but in the end, cannot requite her feelings for him due to his own buried pain and wish to leave the country.
The way I intend to let the audience understand character progression is through contemporary dance movement. In film dance is often used as an entertaining divertissement but with "Scriptures" movement stands at the very heart of the project and is the principal means of telling the story.
This is crucially important: When our characters move their actions are revealing. Their movements do not allow them to lie as they might do would they use words. They are immediately exposed and this will engage the audience on a unique and unusual level. The Bible itself says that the scriptures have been twisted for selfish gain and destruction. I want "Scriptures" to remind people of this fact and aim for it to be a reflective visual thesis that, I sincerely hope, could inspire change.
The project has currently the following creative team attached:
Petr Hlinomaz - Cinematographer
Petr has been DoP and Camera Operator on such films as Martin Scorsese's 'Picasso and Braque Go To the Movies', 'I am Legend', 'Pride and Glory' and the HBO show ‘Bored to Death.'
Fabien Prioville – Choreographer and Performer
Fabien has performed with Lalala Human Steps and Pina Bausch Tanztheater Wuppertal. He also performed in Pedro Almodovar’s 'Talk to Her'.
Veronique Melery - Production Designer
BAFTA Nominee for the Academy Award winning film 'Marie Antoinette', Set Decorator on the Academy Award Nominated 'A Very Long Engagement', and Production Designer of Golden Globe nominated 'Ma Vie en Rose'.
Peter Hjorth - Editor
Editor and Visual Effects on Academy Award nominated 'Dancer in the Dark' as well as 'Antichrist', 'Manderlay', and 'Dogville'.
Patricia Colin - Costume Designer
Costume Supervisor on the Academy Award winning film 'Marie Antoinette', Academy Award nominated films 'Inglorious Basterds', 'The Devil Wears Prada', and 'Chocolat', as well as Emmy winning shows 'The Sopranos', 'Entourage', and 'Sex and the City'.
Jenny Lawhorn of FAT DOT - Publicist
FAT DOT in New York City has provided marketing and publicity for numerous films such as 'Little Children', 'The Devil Wears Prada', 'An Inconvenient Truth', and 'The Squid and the Whale'.