Softness of Bodies, a Fresh Dark Comedy About Narcissism
written by Sam Kolesnik
In Jordan Blady’s new dark comedy, Softness of Bodies, Dasha Nekrasova stars as Charlotte Parks, a narcissistic poet aspirant from America bumming around the Berlin art periphery.
Charlotte bikes through the gorgeously lit Berlin streets from one pretentious poetry reading to the next. A gang of creative misfits, including ex-boyfriend and erotic photographer, Oliver (Morgan Krantz), scramble in orbit around Charlotte’s unmovable selfishness. When Charlotte is faced with jail time for her shoplifting habit, she embarks on a callous spree of manipulation to avoid any consequences for her actions.
The comedy in Softness of Bodies is acutely dark, the kind of humor that yields ‘in on the joke’ smirks more than outright laughter. The comedic beats especially land during moments when Blady focuses on the inherent comedy of artistic circle jerking. A great example is a scene where submissive poet, Nathan (played memorably by Matthias Renger), reads aloud his poem about an owl in the moonlight. Charlotte, the object of his unrequited affection and whom he doubtlessly hopes to impress, pokes holes in his work with disdain. The other poets’ reactions to Charlotte’s etiquette breach are hilarious as they try to answer for Nathan, finding ways to restore the implied and much preferred equilibrium of ‘we don’t criticize each other’s work here’. If you’ve ever been in any kind of insular community, the palpable discomfort around criticism of the in-group will feel relatable and cathartic.
Charlotte’s monstrous narcissism far outsizes her actual ambition. She works as a coffee barista and shares a flat with savvy roommate, Remo (Johannes Frick), while she tries to get her poetry career off the ground. In lieu of hard work, Charlotte frequently opts for stealing. Thievery is such a big component of her life that there’s not much Charlotte possesses that she’s actually earned. From her shoplifted fashion to her plagiarized poetry, Charlotte seems content to profit from the work of others while still expecting to be recognized as an accomplished artist.
Johannes Frick has a charismatic turn as Charlotte’s roommate, Remo, and should be commended for the subtlety of his performance. Remo provides a bit of audience relief as he aims a knowing eye at Charlotte during her self-absorbed banter. There are nuanced moments where we can see that Remo sees more about Charlotte’s dysfunctional personality than Charlotte does. Such is the case during a scene where Charlotte rudely interrupts Remo and his boyfriend while they are sharing a meal. The private glances Remo shares during this exchange serve as a clever wink to the audience, as if to confirm our own feelings about Charlotte’s supreme unlikability.
Jordan Blady’s writing is smart and layered. As the film progresses, we see Charlotte’s journey move from relatively harmless self-absorption to something far more sinister. Dasha Nekrasova commits fully with Charlotte’s complete lack of empathy coming across in every exchange and expression. Aided by Christian Huck’s beautiful cinematography and Dasha Nekrasova’s convincing performance, Blady has created a complex and thought-provoking film about the intersection of narcissism and art. There are no heroes in Softness of Bodies -- only the scene with all its accompanying pretension, ego, sex and lies.
Softness of Bodies will be released on major digital streaming platforms on April 30th, including Amazon, Vimeo on Demand, Vudu, Fandango, and more.
Images used in this review were provided courtesy of TriCoast Worldwide.