Right from the first frame, where a lone church is seen sitting on a hill across the peaceful horizon as soothing vocals lull us into serenity, it’s clear that Katie Beard & Naomi Turner have spared no expense. A gorgeous artistic film with impressive production value, compelling cinematography, choreography and a beautiful score from Ben Glass, Wake takes powerful themes and transforms them into powerful images. Inside the church we see a woman alone sitting before the altar, she then finds herself in a forest holding an ornate wooden box. As these images unfold the woman soon becomes surrounded by others and the dance begins. It’s all quite ethereal as Wake’s dance imagery quickly begins to tell a story of loss and acceptance, without any dialogue the filmmakers rely on movement and music to passionately convey this.
Despite heavy themes there is a burgeoning optimism to Wake, the choreography from Liv Lockwood has the dancers surround Sarah Farrow-Jones’ character but it’s comforting, supportive, they are a lifeline in a place where she feels lost. The choreography is complemented by the costume design as we can see a clear visual change as this emotional process is acted out. The dancers and Farrow-Jones are initially in muted colours, similar to their forest surroundings but then change to colours such as red and yellow as the woman acknowledges what’s inside the box against the bright sunlight. Sam Finney’s cinematography is terrific, plenty of sweeping aerial shots and close-ups using the location and lighting to welcome the audience into this dance. It’s all very impressive and it’s clear that Beard and Turner’s have put a lot of passion into their work as the final results are breathtaking.
Beard and Turner’s direction and cinematic focus keep Wake from feeling like a music video but the spectacle can work against its intentions at times. As exquisite as the film looks and sounds (again Glass’ work is sublime) there can be a disconnect at times. It is about the acceptance of losing someone and reaffirming the life around them but all the spectacle can rob the audience of more personal intimacy. It’s still wonderful to watch but Wake can feel more technically impressive rather than emotionally captivating. The film has a desired effect on the audience but it can’t shake that feeling that something is missing, the last vital piece to push it to a greater height.
Wake is a joyous piece, crafted with such care by its filmmakers and an excellent display on how cinema can speak beyond words. Minor faults aside with thematic resonance, it’s presentation is stellar and just enamours you with its celestial imagery as the dance becomes more freeing and euphoric.