Coming out


Coming out - video still

Video, 06 mn 06.

The video Coming Out is structured around the last ballet sequence in H. Bruce Humberstone’s Sun Valley Serenade, which showcases the ice skating talents of the Norwegian actress and figure skater, Sonja Henie. After having shown the young woman skating alone on an artificial lake to the rhythm of a piece of orchestral music, the video cuts to a short duo with a male partner before ending on group scenes where couples of ice skaters in ball attire and men in military uniforms curiously appear together.

Multiplying the skaters and décor with a mirroring effect, the icy surface on which the characters move about serves as a pretext to digitally insert more markedly artificial mirror effects into the compositions of the shots. The image splits in two at several points, as though cut apart by the edge of the skates, to swallow certain parts of the image or to furtively introduce new elements. It is in this way that Sonja Henie pulls her partner from the shot’s central fold before being swallowed by it in turn, after being treacherously drawn to it by her partner.

These appearing and disappearing bodies, which indirectly refer back to the video’s title, accentuate the scene’s magical dimension. Built on an out-of-frame field bounded by the image’s split center, they lend a fantastical aspect to the sequence, as if this imaginary fold enabled the characters to access their wildest dreams. The mirror effects also contribute to reshaping the dancers bodies so that they only retain certain dynamic elements and, in the duo scenes, they even melt the dancers into one another and subject them to strange metamorphoses.

These effects contribute more insidiously to shifting the perception of the film’s original scene, enabling the traditional ice skating duo composed of partners of opposite sexes to be supplanted by couples of identical characters. The romantic codes implemented en masse in the ballet find themselves reworked to introduce a meditation on homosexuality that the title Coming Out only reinforces further.

This interpretive framework allows a certain number of clichés associated with so-called minority groups (appearance, taste in clothing and culture, lifestyles, etc.) to be approached through parody. While organizing a complex waltz to better promote the redistribution of couples, the mirror effects also fuse bodies together, creating a series of dual, ambivalent figures whose balance between masculine and feminine is in continual flux, in tribute to the diversity of categorizations extolled by Gender Studies. By removing some bodies and bringing others into being in the same movement, these effects celebrate the importance of the liberating expression of one’s sexuality after having been fought or kept silent for years.

The appearance of the soldiers takes on special sense when regarded from this perspective, pointing to the threat of the ongoing repression of homosexuality in many countries around the world.

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Copyright © 2016 Laurent Fiévet