Lilith's Awakening is a special kind of film in that it represents a couple of firsts. One is that it's the premiere feature film to come out of the David Lynch MFA program; a vigorous curriculum which focuses on not only mastering all aspects of film making, but doing so by also leveraging the introspective "Transcendental Meditation" technique. The goal of which, is to allow a filmmaker to look within themselves at a much deeper level of consciousness, affording their vision the absolute most clarity, translating to a purer film creation process. Second, this is Monica Demes' first feature length film entirely! Working under the tutelage of David Lynch himself, she was able to utilize learned techniques to create a stunningly shot vampire movie that speaks profoundly on the topic of female independence and femininity. It's a simple, familiar story, avoiding over-complicated plot lines, so as to better deliver its message.
And so it goes that Lucy (Sophia Woodward), a tightly wound, sexually repressed small town girl, stuck in a dead end job, a soulless marriage, and with seemingly no hope for change, falls deeper and deeper into despair. Things take an interesting turn however, when a fateful night puts Lucy on a path that leads her to meet a mysteriously seductive vampire, a woman who represents not only Lucy's "end", but her "beginning" as well.
It was mentioned earlier, but it really needs to be stressed, 'Lilith's Awakening' is a gorgeous production. Lucy's transformative journey is one that's filled with stunning imagery, much of it presented in an almost dream-like way; visually arresting too, you can't help but be hypnotized by what's on display. Further, as a (mostly) black-and-white film, light and shadow are carefully manipulated to draw attention to specific cues, play tricks on your eyes, and even evoke a specific emotional reaction (with the rare spots of color used as emphasis). Demes also isn't afraid to let the camera linger on shots where necessary. Whether they be wide vistas or claustrophobic close-ups, she wisely allows each scene to breathe, which works to let the more poignant moments land much more effectively. Perhaps the visual strength is a direct result of the collaboration with David Lynch; surely it isn't a stretch to say that the aesthetics here are influenced at some level by Lynch, if not covered in his fingerprints (shades of "Eraserhead" and "Twin Peaks").
Make no mistake however, as steeped in Lynchian dressing as this is, "Lilith's Awakening' is absolutely Monica Demes' story to tell. This being her first foray into feature-length film making, its admirable then that 'Lilith's Awakening' tackles the subject matter that it does; using the horror genre and vampire legend as a vehicle to cleverly deliver a commentary on the societal constructs built to oppress, and control, women. Genius in fact, as the vampire itself represents in many ways, sexual independence, the removal of inhibition, and along with their possessed strength - the ability to take away control from others. A woman metaphorically "bit" then is a woman that no longer defines herself through the restrictive - often dehumanizing - declaration of man's approval, but rather through the unfiltered and uninhibited manifestation, of her unshackled character.
With this being a film that tackles feminism symbolically, it's certainly worth noting the intentional homage Demes pays to Bram Stoker's "Dracula". Particularly since this tribute (in the way of character names either lifted directly, or slightly altered from their inspired work) ties into the various ways in which Lucy is oppressed. Her father "Abe" for example, is a take on Abraham Van Helsing, the ultra-conservative and highly zealous vampire slayer, while her husband "Jonathan", sucks more life out of their marriage (and Lucy's as a result) than any "evil" vampire ever could.
While on the subject of inspiration and homages, whether intentional or not, 'Lilith's Awakening' also bears more than a passing resemblance to Robert Eggers' 'The Witch'; another film where an established evil entity works as a catalyst in allowing a young girl to step out of the shadow of an externally defined self and into a place where she finds empowerment - while no longer denying herself that which she desires - and ultimately deciding to, "live deliciously".
By the time you read this review, 'Lilith's Awakening' should have already made it's premiere, with early buzz reinforcing our gut feeling that this is one film to look out for. Hopefully spreading like wildfire in it's subsequent festival runs and leading to it's eventual video release, let's hope the message Monica Demes has so expertly embodied within these gorgeous trappings, finds and effects as wide an audience as possible - hopefully giving women the chance and the courage, to be bit.