Leda Movie Review
Leda Movie Review Metadata
If you took AP literature in high school, this probably sounds familiar as Leda (2021) is a modern and artsy retelling of the Greek myth of Leda and the Swan. It’s the most recent film to draw from that well, like Alex Garland’s Men (2022) and it drinks deep the themes of trauma as suffered solely by women.
The young woman (Adeline Thery) at the center of Leda lives in what can best be described as a waking nightmare. Drifting from one ethereal encounter to another, or room to room, not even the setting remains constant; her days are expressed as snippets of her past and present. Seemingly alone on a large estate, her life is a flipbook of joy and trauma as she endures the death of her father, then her mother, then maybe a husband. After a chance encounter with a swan, the woman finds herself pregnant with her world unraveling physically and mentally. Leda is not terribly clear, but that may be the point.
There’s no definitive storyline to Leda, no solid plot as the point of view and shifting timelines present her as a young girl surrounded by tragedy, then a bride (maybe), and finally a victim, often overlapping. The audience is as helpless as Leda, unable to control when the story progresses or backtracks. Filmed in 3D, that only adds to the disconnected unreality of her madness. Those who want the full experience will want to catch it at a cinema that offers special glasses and an excellent sound system.
As far as a time period as a point of reference, there isn’t one. Leda‘s pastoral setting is anywhere from the Italian Renaissance to England’s Victorian era. There is no dialogue to drill down even a location, and aside from score and background noises, this is effectively a silent film. The soundscape itself is impressive and immersive, but it only serves to accentuate the dreamlike quality of the overall picture.
Needless to say, Leda is not for everyone. It’s not for people expecting the standard three-act story of innocent expectation, violent conflict, and brutal resolution. It’s not for people who like dialogue to give them a sense of plot direction. It’s not for people who prefer linear storylines. It is not for short attention spans. It is, however, a beautiful film, from the carefully crafted camera angles to the creative costuming drawn from multiple periods. Images of swans, floating eggs, and the pervasive fox hunt don’t seem any more out of place than her own disconnected memories that unspool in an unsettling stream of consciousness. It is how we expect our dreams to be filmed, in a soft focus with muffled surroundings. There is also a lot of water, whether she’s at the pond or in a tub, it’s a constant companion. Water often symbolizes death, the cleansing veil between Life and Beyond, so there’s another point for the film kids to chew on. Even if Leda isn’t your bag, the cinematography is of the sort discussed in film classes frame-by-frame as symbolism is unwrapped and dissected. It is a gorgeous little film, even if I thought 75-minutes was a little too long.
In all honesty, Leda wasn’t for me. I like my stories a little less airy and my heroines with more to say, but I can appreciate the expressive performance by Adeline Thery as she tries to convey the hell she is in. As she inches closer and closer to the edge of madness, the oblivion looks almost inviting enough for company.
Leda (2021) is unrated but call it PG-13 for the pervasive heartache and grief, the hint of rape, bird corpses, so much water, disconnected baby cries, and a suicide.