The Ninth Women’s Tale for MiuMiu’s Spring Summer 2015 collection is told from the perspective of a newborn dress, or ‘djess,’ according to the film’s fictitious gamelot. In Alice Rohrwacher’s film, the dress, animated by stop-motion, is no mere piece of stuff, but a fully sentient being. According to animator Michaelangel Fornaro, being a feminine object, the dress had to possess the delicate, deft mannerisms of a woman. Certainly, thanks to an internal rig, its white satin body ripples with emotion, and the fringe of polyp-like beads that fringe its deep neckline, function as sensitive antennae.
The dress, which is different from its gaudier sisters in the collection, with their graphic prints, suggestive cuts and jazzy embellishments, resonates with fairytale or indeed couture show endings. Those familiar with either form, might comprehend that the white, ethereal garment is a wedding dress, and that it is saving itself for someone special.
The dress’s original intended is Divina, an Anita Ekberg-like actress with a halo of platinum blonde hair and a hibiscus-red mouth, who courts the paparazzi in a tight, scarlet pencil skirt. However, when the dress is presented to her in her hotel suite, where she reigns supreme in a white bullet bra and sheer tights, she is indifferent to it. She continues to talk on the telephone, despite entreaties from her agent, and caresses from the garment itself. After a tantrum, she reluctantly agrees to wear it, but the moment she touches it, the scorned dress mysteriously pricks her finger, and a drop of blood stains its white surface. It squeals in protest, and sobs ricochet through its satin body, as it sheds a trail of beads, and goes into hiding under the bed.
The dress and Divina’s mutual rejection of one another, somewhat evokes that of Cinderella’s stepsisters and the fateful slipper in Charles Perrault’s classic fairytale. Despite their best efforts, which include cutting off their toes, in the Grimm Brothers’ later adaptation, the stepsisters cannot deceive the shoe, and by extension, the Prince, that it belongs to them. Rohrwacher’s cinematic tale draws upon the older fairytale’s premise that bespoke garments and their associated destinies, are the property of particular owners. However, her film is less morally clear than the Cinderella fairytale, because though Divina is blind to the dress’s extraordinary nature, she is wise enough to recognise that it is not for her.
In another modification of the Cinderella story, the dress’s true intended, at first seems an unlikely candidate. A ingenuous, bare-faced, black maid, played by Yanet Majica, appears on scene, when she scrambles out from beneath the dust cloud of paparazzi. The viewer instantly recognises her as the highly-strung dress’s rightful wearer, because she is sensitive to every bead it sheds. However, she is initially intercepted by a nun, who indicates that she must take it to Divina. Like Cinderella and the slipper, the maid and the dress find each other once more, and when she discards her maid’s uniform, it automatically glides up her stem-like body. If Perrault had scripted this tale, we might have expected the spot of blood to clear away in its contact with the maid’s virtuous flesh. However, Rohrwacher is once again more interesting, as the spot becomes the beginning of a cherry pattern that embroiders the dress. Rohrwacher described this as the dress’s blossoming, because ‘it hadn’t already blossomed,’ and was therefore unfinished, prior to wear. Equally, the shy, serious maid, is incomplete without the dress, because she only smiles after she has put it on. As they step out to greet the zealous paparazzi, both dress and maid laugh audibly when they recognise that the latter have run out of battery. Thus, the dress lives happily ever after with the one who truly loves it, rather than merely wanting to capture its beauty. Rohrwacher thus subtly implies that aesthetic fulfilment is reached through the wear of bespoke garments, and not through the accumulation of images.
‘De Djess’ Directed by Alice Rohrwacher, for MiuMiu, Spring/Summer 2015. Posted on February 17, 2015
’De Djess’ Interview with Michaelangelo Fornaro. Published February 18, 2015.