How do you do justice to the full import of The Kiss, shared by Dante’s doomed lovers, Francesca and Paolo? Many artists have tried, to varying degrees of success, the most famous possibly being Rodin’s magnificent sculpture.
Now, as part of this year’s The Three Palaces Online Festival’s programming – which this year celebrates the Dante and Caravaggio respective anniversaries – we get to experience another, altogether more beautifully subversive and shadowy, artistic interpretation of The Kiss performed by Moveo Dance Company.
The eponymous dance film that premiered online on November 9 is another magnificent journey, one that strips us of all preconceptions and recreates a highly-seductive, fluid portrayal of the two famous lovers. Forget about the black and white portrayals of Paolo and Francesca, because this Kiss knows no gender, no boundaries, no morality judgments.
Camera and film are here used to tremendous effect to present us with a journey, bringing to life this iconic moment created by Dante via a complex synergy of senses and emotions. This abstraction of the Kiss lives in animalistic beats, in tribal movements that are impossibly sinuous, in one continuous teasing of our senses as we follow this almost surreal ideation of Paolo and Francesca.
We meet them in the darkened basement of the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mdina (an inspired choice of venue, incidentally) and we follow the journey of their kiss through dark and light, and eventually back to dark again in a poignant symbolism that reflects the tragic narrative they are given in Dante’s La Divina Commedia.
Without giving away too much, the chaste, minimalistic costumes are cut with fast footage scenes that juxtapose the innocence of the couple’s love with the darker seductions that lead to their eventual downfall. We follow Francesca and Paolo vicariously, through our dancers, inevitably joining them in chasing the Kiss.
Shadowing the lovers are the dark figures personified by dancers Dorian Mallia and Francisco Camarneiro, adding an unsettling air of menace to the interplay, pulling the strings so effectively that it’s not only Paolo and Francesca but equally the viewer, that is enraptured.
The soundscape, composed by Albert Garzia, complements this journey every step of the way, alternately alluring, dark, playful, and threatening, conjuring a kaleidoscope of emotions that are aided by DOP Kevin Kiomall’s excellent camera work and editing.
The concept and choreography were created by Diane Portelli together with the dancers (Cindelle Bouard, Francisco Camarneiro, Charlotte Carpentier, Gabriele Farinacci and Dorian Mallia), who execute it gorgeously, keeping the audience completely in thrall throughout the 22-minute production.
And in the end, we’re taking back to where it all started, as we follow Paolo and Francesca and we are left awaiting, The Kiss.
The Three Palaces Online Festival is organised by Festivals Malta. If you missed The Kiss, make sure to watch it below. You can also check out this review of Oskur, which also premiered at this year’s festival earlier this week.