Student Critic Joanna Krygier reviews Maya Dardel (Zachary Cotler and Magdalena Zyzak, USA/Poland, 2016)
A middle of the day. A couch in a garden.
A middle-aged woman is being sexually assulted by her much younger assistant. Instead of being terrified she's both laughing and threatening that she will kill him. It's Maya Dardel, a writer and the title character of the film by Magdalena Zyzak and Zachary Cotler. According to their controversial statement at Q&A session at Edinburgh Film Festival, she is also apparently a woman "too tough to be raped."
At the beginning of the film she says she wants to commit suicide. She's so lonely that she's making a casting for an executor. Maya starts interviewing young male writers but her criteria are untypical – she judges them basing on their cunnilingus skills. Woman and man use each other: Maya wants to fulfill her desires and the men - to make their own work famous. But even in a rape scene there's no doubt that she is the one who exercises control. It's like in Paul Verhoeven's Elle: a prey becoming a predator.
The opening is interesting, but after a while the script starts going nowhere and exaggerates when it comes to absurd situations (for example 'finding a stolen mailbox' competition). After a while, the writer's pretentious way of speaking, as an expression of her artistic soul, starts being annoying. 'Maya Dardel' is intriguing outside, but quite empty and drawn-out inside. Zyzak and Cotler's picture is an intricate puzzle full of poetic monologues and props which makes Maya's world a performance rather than an realistic experience.
Joanna Krygier is 20 and studying Film and New Media at Jagiellonian University in Kraków.