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Recital

Stephanie Beroes

USA, 1978
20 minutes, Colour, Sound, 4:3
Original format: 16mm film
Available formats: 16mm / HD Digital file

Inspired by Simone De Beauvoir’s writings Stephanie Beroes’ film Recital addresses the state of ‘woman in love’, a situation fraught less with ecstasy than with risk and pain.Recital is a highly structured film. Each section involves a woman, situated in some external local, reading a letter or other text. It is clear that the women are not the authors of what they read.The first text is a letter expressing the pain of unrequited love, the abyss of frustrated passion, however read in a monotone with no peaks of feeling. This pattern of love letter reading is repeated with several other readers: one breaks up laughing when she comes to a passage: ‘Oh, yes, I love you, I love you.’Clearly the subject is not one of true comedy, particularly since the letters recited are ones Beroes once earnestly composed. Beroes’ goal, however, is a kind of distanced deconstruction of the experience, in an attempt to view it with the lessons of knowledge and time. Having other people recite the letters breaks the spell of the romantic fantasy. What appears to the captive lover as amorous transcendence, appears to the detached observer as mere bondage.Beroes’ point in particular is this state of dependence as a particularly female syndrome. The film ends with the return of the first woman reader who crumples up the original letter to the strains of Billie Holiday singing Lover man where can you be?The film is not only interesting for its attempt to critique the phenomenon of female masochism, but also for its use of language. Her soundtrack is composed entirely of women’s words – her own as well as those of Carolee Schneemann, Casey Miller and Kathleen Frazier.Through the distanced juxtaposition of words and image, and the progression of ideas within the texts themselves, Beroes accomplishes a true recital, that is, a re-reading of past experiences given shape over time.