Maya Dardel by Magdalena Zyzak & Zachary Cotler

Maya Dardel is the fascinating story of a once-great author who publicly announces that she will commit suicide and wishes to find an heir before she does so. The forthright Maya Dardel explains that she is looking for capable and skilled male writers to apply and “women need not apply, because I don’t like women’s writing”. What follows are Maya’s interviews with the potential candidates with whom the author is not afraid to intimidate and humiliate.

The great Lena Olin truly shines as the complicated author and it her portrayal as Maya which makes the film standout. With a gravelly-voice and a sharp tongue, Olin commands her scenes and helps deliver the one-woman character study that the films seeks to achieve. Although Zyzak and Cotler rely on a repetitive narrative structure in the first half of the film, Maya’s exchanges with the two final candidates allows viewers to delve deeper into the writer’s intentions.

One candidate, Ansel, is a reserved and cautious but immensely-talented writer while the other candidate, Paul, is overconfident, stubborn and his work is uninspiring. What Paul does have going for him is that he can please Maya sexually but what these dynamics represent is two interesting sides to Maya: the artist and the women with sexual needs. Maya certainly does not need to choose between the two but watching Olin create a clear distinction between the two personas is truly captivating.

A deeply engrossing insight into the fractured psyche of a writer, Maya Dardel explores sexuality, mortality and creativity. Although one scene involving sexual violence threatens to undermine the feminist themes of the film. Nonetheless, the film deserves a wide audience.

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