The Severing Image

The Severing

By Kyle Bain | February 2, 2022

SLAMDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2022 REVIEW! The Severing is a twisted tale of love, isolation, struggle, silence, and more. However, this story isn’t told like your typical narrative, as writer/director Mark Pellington utilizes modern, unique movements and text. One-of-a-kind dance conveys emotion beyond what many might believe to be possible, and this journey is one that everyone should be able to appreciate.

In 1943, Abraham Maslow created his Hierarchy of Needs back in 1943. It is a motivational idea in psychology that teachers around the world use to understand their students’ needs and ensure that they are providing them with the best possible education. Interestingly, this pyramid of basic human needs applies vigorously to The Severing.

At the base of Maslow’s pyramid are the basic needs of every human being: air, water, food, sex, etc. Sex is a theme that Pellington is most certainly exploring with this movie. Through the dancers’ dark, passionate, and precise motions, a somewhat ironic relation to sex exists. As men and women move about in nothing more than their skivvies, viewers can’t help but feel a sexual connection to them, even if it’s nothing more than the understanding of sex and not the need to act on it.

“…a twisted tale of love, isolation, struggle, silence…”

The movement of the dancers is meant to convey emotion and honesty, and viewers are expected to understand and appreciate all they’re attempting to say. That’s a tall task and a tough request for the filmmaker to pin on his viewers, but somehow it works. I know nothing about dance. I’d even go as far as to say that I don’t even appreciate dance. I know that it plays a role in society, but it’s never something that I’ve found an interest in. However, I understood all that was being conveyed in The Severing. Those aforementioned ideas of isolation, love, sex, and struggle transcend the film, and there’s an odd but understandable connection between what is being shown on screen and what we experience on a day-to-day basis.

The direction is superb, and the cinematography, by Ann Evelin Lawford, is also outstanding. There’s no dialogue, so 100% of the movie’s success relies on whether the director can direct powerful movements and if Lawford can express it via lighting, camera movements, etc. From beginning to end, the production is proof that these two are incredibly good at their respective jobs. Their ability to capture each solitary movement, all the dancers’ facial expressions, and the overall darkness and sincerity of everything being expressed shows a mastery of medium comparable to the greats of Hollywood.

The Severing is a truly weird, interestingly terrifying tale of everything we fear, crave, and need. The juxtaposition, the parallels, the darkness, and everything in between is raw, honest, and emotionally appealing. While I’ve conveyed so many good things about the film, I’m still not sure that I can put into words what exactly it is that allows Pellington to find such success. There is something special here, but it isn’t easy to put into words. However, the ability of everyone involved to convey such powerful emotion is something spectacular. I’m proud that I get to be a part of this movie, even if only in a small capacity.

The Severing screened at the 2022 Slamdance Film Festival.

The Severing (2022)

Directed: Mark Pellington


Starring: Danny Axley, Allison Fletcher, Maija Knapp, Blake Miller, Courtney Scarr, Ryan Spencer, etc.

Movie score: 9/10

The Severing Image

"…the direction is superb..."

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