15th Aug2020

Fantasia 2020: ‘Morgana’ Review

by Chris Cummings

Features: Morgana Muses | Directed by Isabel Peppard, Josie Hess

Give me something new in the guise of a strange premise-based documentary any day of the week and I’m going to be pleased. Documentary films can be incredibly powerful, intriguing and hugely entertaining, and when I read the synopsis for Morgana, from Josie Hess and Isabel Peppard, I was curious and somewhat bewildered. It doesn’t really sound like a documentary, but rather a dark thriller or something like that. The tale of a desperate housewife whose life isn’t going anywhere close to how she wants, makes the decision to end it all, but finds herself saved by an unexpected detour that involves sexual reawakening and a reinvention of self.

Using interviews from a variety of relevant people as well as some delightfully designed animated elements, Morgana tells the tale of this woman, Morgana Muses, who, for many years lived life as the atypical dated vision of “housewife”, in a sexless marriage in which she found little pleasure of excitement and depression and loneliness became the norm. Deciding to take her life into her own hand, this woman took herself from the deep bowels of life into becoming a femenist pornographic star with control of her own destiny. It’s a wonderful thing to see in any walk of life, right?

The overcoming of hardship and mental exhaustion in order to find a new place in a new place with a firmer grasp on your existence. That’s what this is all about, and it’s told beautifully. Peppard and Hess, who met at a punk-rock concert back in 2013, spent five years making Morgana, and it shows in the passionate and artistically vibrant way it’s made.

It’s not just a behind-the-curtain look at feminist pornography and the system, but also the very personal sexual journey of the films focal point, Morgana Muses, and a lengthy (in terms of the time spent with her as the film was created) look at mental health. The film emblazes itself with a big golden shimmer of empowerment, and that is what pulls the film through its 71 minute runtime. Most coming-of-age tales are about kids or teenagers, people finding themselves in the midst of youth, but this is a middle-age tale, with a woman both brave and bold finding new passion and grabbing life by the horns.

Morgana Muses herself is a strong and open-book of a woman, willing to shed her proverbial skin for the camera here, telling her story in a way that is incredibly revealing. The whole experience of this film felt very personal and warm, given the subject and the directors, and that passionate need to tell a true and frank story of a woman, her sexual becoming, her unhinged expression of self and her life and all of its bruises, shines here. It’s moving, poignant, motivational and very interesting indeed, and a documentary film worth anybody’s time.

**** 4/5

Morgana screens as part of this years Fantasia Festival, which starts August 20th 2020.


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