SIREN

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Leigh is a troubled woman. Afflicted with a bizarre condition that sees her perpetually release a potent pheromone, any man who sees her will not only perceive her as his dream woman, but will also instantly and permanently desire her with a possessive and manic lust. She lives alone in a country house, surrounded by unkempt woodland and a network of security cameras to protect herself from the outside world and it from her. So her endless sorrow might have continued, were it not for the failure of her security system and the timely appearance of drifter Guy, who is not only rather handy with electronics but also happens to lack a sense of smell, thus rendering him immune to Leigh’s pheromonal effects and able to see her for who she is, both physically and emotionally. And the fact that he’s also a gorgeous young man with an easygoing charm certainly doesn’t hinder the situation.

Mythology is a crap place to be a girl. A woman who is not just some sacrificial plot device but actually possesses any degree of strength, such as Medusa, the harpies or the Erinyes, are beings to be feared and shunned, and often defeated by the hero in order to reassert male dominance over the weaker sex. Sirens in particular have it rough, as their very purpose is to conform to men’s sexual desire, while that same beauty remains something to be forever wary of. Transposing the concept into the modern day, the film tells a story from the opposite perspective, of what must it be like for a woman who unwillingly inspires blind infatuation in any man who sees her, his obsession growing with each passing day and ultimately ending in madness and/or death.

It’s clear that Leigh yearns for human contact while at the same time aware she must do all she can to shun it, so Guy’s sudden appearance is a welcome if somewhat unnerving disruption. As Leigh has no experience of men outwith them uncontrollably trying to force themselves on her, Guy simply being nice to her leaves her as flustered as a teenage girl crushing on the boy next door. Actually able to enjoy his company without fear of what he might do – to her or himself – they are able to gradually grow closer as the days pass. The soft focus and bright sunlight casts Leigh’s woodland domain in a dreamlike haze, as though Guy’s mere presence has transformed her home from imprisoned loneliness to idyllic isolation.

While it would be inaccurate to describe their dance around and towards each other as innocent, there is nevertheless a sweetness to it, with some of the most sexually charged scenes being simply Guy standing around in nothing but a towel or Leigh watering flowers wearing only a long shirt. They each want to feel desirable to the other, silently confirming a mutual attraction that neither feels it necessary to rush acting upon. Like she is every man’s dream girl, so he is her dream guy, representative of everything she thought she could never have and didn’t dare even wish for.

Of course, it’s not all summer loving tranquillity, and the flipside to the fable is not shied away from. Whenever there is power to be tapped, you can guarantee someone will be on hand to exploit it. Leigh gets by through selling samples of her blood to a perfume company, while further machinations of some sinister figures likely have the goal of figuring out how to weaponise her eldritch allure. The legion of local men she has inadvertently charmed and left bereft of her very presence live their lives in a somnambulistic haze, and we also see her indirect effect on women, as many of them had husbands and boyfriends who are now incapable of even noticing them after they caught the merest glimpse of the “witch.”

Siren is a modern day fantasy of magical realism and ethereal romance. While the story is as idealistic as any fairy tale, it has an underlying darkness that stops it feeling out of place in our cynical world. By turns otherworldly, mournful, passionate and tragic, it’s as enchanting and captivating as the song of the sea maidens who inspired it.

SIREN / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: JESSE PEYRONEL / STARRING: VINESSA SHAW, ROBERT KAZINSKY, ROSS PARTRIDGE, BESS WOHL / RELEASE DATE: TBC

 


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