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SHORT FOCUS 2018: Takako vs. Nine Lives [Laura Wolkstein, USA, 2018]

When you hear the word “nutcracker” what do you think of? An enchanting ballet traditionally performed at Christmas or an excruciating, paternity-threatening wrestling move? While these definitions seem a million miles apart, Takako vs. Nine Lives combines the two opposing forms of dance and fighting in a mesmerising short film that celebrates the potential of the human body.

Although the piece is wordless, body language speaks volumes as two masked lucha libre wrestlers battle it out for the entire ten minutes of the film. The combination of ballet and wrestling is both clever and amusing for a number of reasons. Firstly, mixing these two seemingly opposing forms slyly highlights their similarities; bringing strenuously rehearsed dance moves into the ring pokes fun at the elaborate choreography of staged fights, and anyone who has seen Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, USA, 2010) can testify to the violence of ballet. Secondly, this juxtaposition crosses a boundary between both high and popular culture and traditionally masculine and feminine spheres of performance. This innovation damages neither ballet nor wrestling, but instead broadens the possibilities of both forms. In other words, it is refreshingly badass.

Sun-Mi Cho and Laura Katz in 'Takako vs. Nine Lives' (2018)

While the costumes are fabulous (and made all the more dazzling by the solid black backdrop), the real centrepiece of this film is the human body. The defined muscles and masterful movements are a testament to the dedication of dancers Laura Katz and Sun-Mi Cho, and the elegance of the shapes they create with their gestures highlights the potential of the body to engage with art in a way that is often overlooked when talking about films.

Lauren Wolkstein’s piece is the kind of short that wouldn’t work as a feature length film, since the focus is on form rather than plot, and doesn’t require 90 minutes to demonstrate its point. It is a great example of why short films are so valuable: they are not feature length films in miniature but a different form altogether, and this allows for a huge breadth of artistic exploration. In this way, Takako vs. Nine Lives inspires innovation and originality, not only in the spheres of dance, but also in the field of short films as a whole.


‘Takako vs. Nine Lives’ was part of the official selection at Short Focus Film Festival 2018.


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