Starring Ariane Labed, Sofia Dona. Written by Athina Rachel Tsangari, Aleksandra Waliszewska. 37 min. Opens Jan. 18 at TIFF Bell Lightbox.
Like her delightful coming-of-sexual-age drama Attenberg, Greek director Athina Rachel Tsangari’s short film, The Capsule, is a celebration of bodies in motion. The lithe, leggy forms in question belong to a group of women housed in an 18th-century castle on the Mediterranean isle of Hydra, who engage in a series of bizarrely sexualized rituals and games (including dance routines) at the behest of their seeming queen (played by Ariane Labed).
With its lack of a clearly defined narrative and a relentless emphasis on the eccentrically elegant, ebony-and-ivory costumes of its characters, The Capsule betrays its roots as a high-couture commission from the Athens-based Deste Foundation for Contemporary Art, which funded the film. But it’s more supple and suggestive than a mere fashion show. Its playfully choreographed yet underlyingly serious spectacle of beautiful young women being birthed and mentored in an immaculate vacuum feels like a wry commentary on the business of beauty. Bonus points to Tsangari for taking folk-rock fogeys America’s early-70s pop hit, “A Horse With No Name,” and repurposing it as a sort of melancholy theme song—an early contender for the slyest soundtrack selection of the year.