Since Sofia Bohdanowicz introduced Deragh Campbell’s Audrey Brenac in Never Eat Alone, the eye-gravitating protagonist has always been on some inquiry, not unlike a non-criminal investigator. In A Woman Escapes (co-directed by Bohdanowicz, stereoscopic imager Blake Williams, and Burak Çevik), Audrey ventures into new territory for her fifth film, where she heals from losing her friend Juliane in Paris at her grandmother’s home. Along the path, Williams and Çevik play fictional versions of Audrey to help her in her grief through filmmaking (shot by Bohdanowicz on 16mm, Williams in 3D, and Cevik in HD footage) while separated during the pandemic.
Containing dialogue and imagery recalling Robert Bresson’s A Man Escaped, this explicit homage to the French auteur allows the three filmmakers to expand what experimental film could be. Throughout her work, Bohdanowicz seeds a bridge between fact and fiction to evoke the audience’s connection with their existing reality. She, Williams, and Çevik emit a patient, inquisitive approach to gazing at the world: Williams’ 3D layering of subtitles and physical surfaces enhances a new dimension of immersion; Çevik’s capturing of intimate memories accelerates Audrey’s remote interactions into a distant, gleaming light of belonging.
Days pass with increased boredom. The streets and Turkish coasts are empty, as if we encountered a ghost-strewn place. Audrey’s witty, observational narration of her isolated stay moves the story forward, not solely to record her thoughts. Despite the city’s inactivity she remains active by using different tools to perceive the world, such as filming with Williams’ camera and seeing footage through a pair of flimsy 3D glasses.
While completing a finished work is an enthralling feat, the film doesn’t answer each aspect of Audrey’s discovery. For example, when Audrey edits the video, she plays a soundbite where she states she is “listening to Kanye West for the first time,” precisely what Çevik said earlier in the film. Though it implies that Benac originator Bohdanowicz leads the story, the meta-context embedded in the movie (such as specific references to Çevik’s and Williams’ perhaps-inaccessible films) can easily confuse a first-time viewer of the Benac Saga. Did Çevik, Audrey, or both direct this scene?
It may be the latter: the duo forge a mutual understanding by translating Çevik’s words from Turkish to English and incorporating personal living moments, like Çevik developing his feature Forms of Forgetting, in their fictionalization. But the scene doesn’t reveal the emotional pushback of Audrey’s potential finding of a firm product, a Bohdanowicz hallmark, as seen in Audrey’s attempted inheritance of her great-grandmother’s letters in MS Slavic 7.
The sly, grammatic connotations between Bresson and the trio’s titles implicate their protagonists’ fates. With Bresson, Fontaine completed the act. But Audrey adjusts to the new information she digests when she stares across the room and makes sense of it. Thus she remains in a continuum of sorrow and endures life’s excitements and disappointments despite the multi-headed mystery of whose version of events we foresee. Ultimately, A Woman Escapes harkens vivid emotions to 2020 and yearns for the need to form a tight-knit community––abroad or nearby––in the name of loneliness.
A Woman Escapes plays at Anthology Film Archives from June 9 to 15.