366 Weird Movies may earn commissions from purchases made through product links.
DIRECTED BY: Samuel Tressler IV
FEATURING: Adeline Thery, Nicolle Marquez, Douglas Cathro, Todd Mazzie
PLOT: After the death of her widowed father, Leda succumbs to visions during a pregnancy.
WHY IT MIGHT JOIN THE APOCRYPHA: Stroboscopic and synthophonic cues and miscues toy with the viewer as Tressler unravels his adaptation of the Leda myth, rendering a tragic tale as a cryptic, layered, dialogue-free nightmare.
COMMENTS: We have at hand four known events: Leda’s mother died young; her father dies unceremoniously during a fox hunt; her cousin visits after the funeral; and there is a wedding to a young local. But Tressler’s exposition is so slippery that even, perhaps, that last event is unclear. We also know a fifth component—not fact: Leda has recurring visions of an egg in the forest, and her mind is haunted by a swan. This mixture of loosely established narrative and striking dreams is saturated in bright lights, dark nights, too-white whites, and bloody sights.
Tressler’s dark dream is saturated with watery imagery. The opening scene is by a pond, where nothing is happening. Inside a stately—and near empty—manor house, a young woman lies hunched over in a bathtub, leaning forward, face down, as if drowning. A steady drip of subconscious dread intermingles with the drips of water, the steam of a kettle, and walking upon water. Leda alternates between wan and pallid, a doomed ghost traveling through a quietly tragic life and a sharply punctuated reverie. Tressler is, by nature if not vocation, a photographer, arranging his scenes with precision. The protagonist’s striking journey on beast-back through a luscious black-and-white idyll, with a sinister moon looming over a flare-tinged forest, is the stuff of high-fantasy paintings. A sudden-but-smooth visual flip of Leda tentatively crossing a pond’s surface in the dark of night swaps the sky for the aquatic in the blink of an eye. Sunlight has rarely been this worrying, and nature’s tranquility has rarely been this ominous.
Leda brings to mind “Meshes of the Afternoon”, in long-form, with repetitive shots, reverse motion, and a piercing absence of temporal and physical clarity. I was also reminded of the more recent short, “A Tale Best Forgotten,” a story conveyed through camera movement and illusions that also took place at an inhospitable home by a body of water. Tressler speaks masterfully with his camera; his characters speak not at all. Ambient sounds, a hypnotic score, and occasional scratches and flickers of stroboscope render the unclear into the incomprehensible. An egg looms large in the woods, a swan hovers fluidly between mysterious, ridiculous, and terrifying, and further deaths herald a troubling birth. Leda only fades to color in the final shot—a sombre combination of the film’s beginnings.
Leda is offered on disc in a 3D version (a regular 2D copy is included as well).
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY: