×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

She Male Snails

Far from a conventional documentary, "She Male Snails" was first intended as a portrait of transgender artist/author Eli Leven for Swedish television, but evolved over time into an experimental mood piece that sometimes elicits comparison with Cam Archer's "Wild Tigers I Have Known" or early Derek Jarman.

With:
With: Eli Leven, Ester Martin Bergsmark.

Far from a conventional documentary, “She Male Snails” was first intended as a portrait of transgender artist/author Eli Leven for Swedish television, but evolved over time into an experimental mood piece that sometimes elicits comparison with Cam Archer’s “Wild Tigers I Have Known” or early Derek Jarman. Part poetic reverie, part psychodrama and part self-indulgence, helmer Ester Martin Bergsmark’s feature world-preemed at the Gothenburg fest, earning the Nordic Vision prize for its provocative visual style as well as the audience award in the Nordic competition. Fests and gay events should take note.

Being “trans” means not matching one’s physically or genetically assigned gender; both Leven and Bergsmark identify as trans and share memories of the violence and cruelties they experienced growing up as an in-between person. Much of their discussion unfolds in voiceover as they languidly pose naked together in an old-fashioned bathtub, shaving each other’s legs.

Exploring the interaction between who a person wants to be and what they are expected to be, Bergsmark stages stylized versions of a fantasy world, showing a person caught between two genders who creates a third in order to survive. One strand, shot in brightly saturated color, shows a young boy stealing away to a private space, putting on makeup and dressing as a girl, then dancing wildly in what looks like some sort of sexual abandon. Another features soft-focus shots of an older figure, dressed in trailing women’s clothing, moving slowly through a field.

References to St. Sebastian also abound, including shadowy night scenes of a thin, androgynous person in female attire going into the woods with a beefy older man, who produces a large knife and ties the other to a tree. Sebastian is also the name of Leven’s alter ego in his literary prizewinning novel “You Are the Roots That Sleep Beneath My Feet and Hold the Earth in Place,” passages of which he quotes during the film.

Black-and-white homevideo footage of a younger Leven reveal that he has long made his struggle for identity public. The Swedish title, “Pojktanten,” comes from the trans identity he crafted, and translates roughly as “she male” or “lady boy.”

Mixing digital formats of variable quality, the craft package has a handcrafted look that suits its experimental nature. A 10- 15-minute trim would improve the pic’s assembly.

She Male Snails

Sweden-Denmark

Production: An Upfront Films Prod. with support from SFI, SVT, DFI, YLE, Nordisk Film and TV Fund, Film i Skane. (International sales: Upfront Films, Copenhagen.) Produced by Anna-Maria Kantarius. Directed, written by Ester Martin Bergsmark.

Crew: Camera (color/B&W, DV), Minka Jakerson, Bergsmark; editors, Britta Norell, Bergsmark, Bjorn Kessler; music, Mirejam Shala, Magnus Engstedt. Reviewed at Gothenburg Film Festival (competing), Feb. 2, 2012. Running time: 75 MIN.

Cast: With: Eli Leven, Ester Martin Bergsmark.

More Scene

  • Inside amfAR's Cannes Gala

    Inside amfAR's Cannes Gala: Mariah Carey, Kendall Jenner and Tiffany Trump

    Kendall Jenner caused a commotion when she arrived. Tiffany Trump went unrecognized until a member of the press pointed her out as she made her way down the carpet. And Mariah Carey flew in to perform a couple of songs. Welcome to this year’s AmfAR Gala Cannes, the AIDS organization’s annual — and largest — [...]

  • Lauren Ash44th Annual Gracie Awards, Show,

    Politics and New Abortion Ban Laws Dominate 2019 Gracie Awards

    Female empowerment was in the air Tuesday night as showrunners, writers and performers gathered at the 44th annual Gracie Awards to celebrate women breaking barriers and shattering glass ceilings within the entertainment industry. Sandra Oh, Patricia Arquette, Rachel Maddow and Connie Britton were among the honorees at the ceremony, which took place at the Beverly [...]

  • Sacha Baron Cohen

    Why Sacha Baron Cohen Credits Donald Trump for ‘Who Is America?’

    Over the course of history, comedians have shared their take on current events with biting commentary on everything from class and gender to fashion and politics, and the current presidential administration is definitely no exception — with President Donald Trump regularly lampooned on shows like “Saturday Night Live” and by late-night TV hosts. But when [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content