“Try not to push, let the physical find its own way.” Nothing could be truer about the latest film Aviva from writer and director Boaz Yakin. A transatlantic love story filled with passion and heartbreak, Aviva may seem unusual at first, but it will not only earn your attention, it will capture your heart.
Aviva is a modern Hebrew name meaning springlike, dewy and fresh, and an appropriate title for the modern perspective applied to this film. Aviva is an experience. Where many will find catharsis in the romance stories of old, here you will feel the movements of the dancers on screen, finding more than a catharsis at the film’s conclusion. By the end, you will have found yourself.
Interpretive narrative through dance
I was unsure about Aviva when the film started, a dancer completely nude on a bed, speaking directly to the audience about the making of the film; about the decisions behind what you will see going forward. It throws you off balance for a moment. You are uncertain of what to make of the film’s opening, or even its opening dance sequence where Eden’s voiceover relays to the audience the euphoria of contacting a girl online only to make a solid connection that would inevitably lead to more. Yet, as you try to understand the visual showcase on-screen, little do you know, Aviva has already locked you in.
Aviva moves quickly through Eden (Tyler Phillips and Bobbi Jene Smith) and Aviva’s (Zina Zinchenko and Or Schraiber) relationship, breaking the film into chapters, leaving behind the build-up and the breakdown. Rather, the interpretive dance on screen delivers the emotions and the intricacies we would normally hear through dialogue and see-through interaction. We are given their milestones, their most personal and emotional struggles, and revelations. It breaks the conventional storytelling, giving a new capacity to the romance genre. With this construction, we see the stages of relationships both externally and internally.
Nudity is also a central part of the Aviva, many times feeling like more of a porno than a narrative. But the use is not to be cheapened, rather be applauded. There is truth to its utilization. These are the characters, people, stripped bare and naked. Here, likened to the opening of our hearts to a new experience, nudity is raw and vulnerable. Its symbolism flows in its utilization, or lack thereof, as the film continues, encompassing not only our vulnerabilities but also our fear and desire to cover-up when we no longer wish to share ourselves – or no longer feel comfortable.
And speaking of raw, Aviva’s inclusion of a dance studio and theater stage setting allows for this to break the construct of celluloid and return to the roots of the art. The set design is exquisite, giving not only the look but the feel of a stage – all while translating accurately to film. The “special room” where much of the dancing occurs also speaks to a return to the basics, to the roots of art. Here there is a privacy and an intimacy that is created. Where you would share in the experience of growth with your fellow dancers, our lovers and their subconscious are able to share that same experience here.
Grade A Score and Choreography
There is a unity in elements within Aviva. Where the set design is impeccable, so too is the choreography and movement that encompasses it. The choreography is amazing, elegant, and graceful, yet other times it is sharp and snappy. Many times it is like an elastic being pulled and snapping back into place – the music coupled perfectly with the movements (especially in enclosed spaces like the bar).
This interpretive dance culminates in performance perfection. There is an electric chemistry between the cast, especially when there is dancing. There is a commitment to self and to each other. There is no fear, only dedication. Each filling the set, each interacting, each breathing in each beat of the music.
No performance is complete without the work of music. The music will reverberate in your chest, drawing out your desire to be on stage, to be apart of the act. It’s subtle, then loud, giving way to emotion and caressing each move and snap the dancers execute. As the film continues all I kept wondering was where I could get a copy?
Anxiety and the subconscious
Eden and Aviva are acted by both genders. While at first confusing, there is an understanding of this decision in that all women and men are the same when it comes to love. We all have the same insecurities. We all have the same needs and desires. We all have the same voice inside of us telling us what we should want, what we should have, and how we should behave. Many times, the two selves are shown speaking to each other, something many of us will find relate-able to ourselves as audiences recall the many times they have talked to ourselves. When all four are talking and interacting at once, it may be confusing, but as in real life, this is each of our insecurities, anxieties, and aspects personified.
Each gender encompasses different aspects of personality – the different sides of ourselves we show and connect with. Also, the different sides we show to others. Sometimes, we show many sides all at once. This was the element I found myself most relating with – and I think many audiences will as well.
Even during aspects of transition, Eden is shown as a little boy, having a tantrum, and being disagreeable. We not only have different aspects to ourselves (anxiety, strength, assertiveness, fear, desire), we also have the necessity and the ability to revert – to return to a former self. Where adult Eden is being asked to transition, to embrace a future beyond a bachelor life, he returns mentally to a time where these were worries he never had to contend with.
Learning to love yourself
As Eden is thanking an unseen force for bringing Aviva into his life, his mind (in female form) is seen rising and slow dancing, the moves becoming more erratic and intentional. Every time he yells “Stop it”, the being freezes, his mind momentarily at a reprieve. Yet, without much hesitation, it starts up again. The subconscious is always reeling, always working behind the scenes – sometimes for the good, while other times for the bad.
As the film continues, there is this idea of the subconscious always thinking in the background, feeding us thoughts, many times validating the things we fear most about ourselves. As Aviva plays out on screen, audiences are posed the question of whether love can ever truly be obtained unless we learn to love ourselves – unless we learn to love every part. How can we share ourselves, if we loathe what we are made of?
There is almost a La La Land feeling to the ending of Aviva, final dances, and crescendoing music resonating with the final dance of the film. There is not just a warmth in the Film’s ending, but in the growth and the journey, we have experienced with these characters along the way. And that is what Aviva is. An experience not just in the crafting of relationships, but what goes on behind the scenes.
What are your favorite romance film? Let us know in the comments below!
Aviva will be released on June 12, 2020 on VOD
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