Rishi Pelham (director)
01 October 2019 (released)
01 October 2019
‘Hilda' is the stylish and often polarizing tale of a young girl thrust into womanhood.
Abandoned by her parents, London high-schooler Hilda (Megan Purvis) must fare for her younger siblings as the cracks in her already tumultuous life begin to grow while her prospects diminish.
Hilda uses her love of dance to escape from her crumbling life, being all she can grasp onto without being washed away. This fresh use of dance was of an especial highlight as it was never done in a self-masturbatory way, always providing a unique narrative drive and character development for Hilda's character as she descends into adulthood and misery. How each dance sequence was so drastically different in tone and emotion from another served as a powerful backbone to the story. My personal favourite being Hilda's final dance scene, though only a single take it was the most ‘cinematic' moment in the film for me with the haunting score and a raw emotional depth oozing from the screen.
Pelham's writing was naturalistic and flowed with life, the conversations and characters felt real and fleshed out where you could see the effort made on the part of the director and actors to add real depth to their roles. Personal highlights would have to be Megan Purvis as Hilda and Yasmin Al-Khudhairi as Ayala, their tender and three-dimensional relationship laid bare as they grow alongside one another in the twilight years of their friendship. I was sometimes left wondering what the film was leading to and in the end, it mostly delivered. The ending was hopeful and realistic as opposed to soppy and predictable, definitely a slow-burner though as I was initially left underwhelmed before I meditated on the film and began to understand its perspective.
The shallow depth of field cinematography, though a creative decision to put us in Hilda's shoes, was a little too much at times, especially for the entire film. Vibrant and intense lighting floods the expressive dance scenes, as we are confronted with Hilda's emotions pouring out, powerless to intervene. Attention to detail regarding the colours chosen for these scenes is clear, from deep blues and greens with a hopeful edge to deep and expressive washes of red. The camera movements also become freer as Hilda expresses herself, in perhaps the only way she knows how. These details undertaken to support the narrative by every department from choreography to sound are what solidifies Hilda as a film overall.
Hilda was not without its funny moments. I think this aided the three-dimensionality of the film as we weren't just taken on a dreary and depressing plunge; through Pelham's writing, a real and tangible world was created exploring a plethora of emotions. Little details like a man's foot stepping on a baby shoe in disgust or Hilda standing frustrated on an empty tube train were striking and said much without uttering a word. The whole film is underscored with delicate and unspoken moments as characters inhabit space together in the calm before the storm.
The jazz-infused score was unique and accentuated Hilda's most emotionally charged moments. Composed mostly by writer/director Pelham, his many talents enable him to take control of his film and dictate his vision to the audience exactly how he needs it to be. The more traditional parts of the score, such as the moments punctuated by sombre piano were nicely composed, though a little cliché, but served their purpose to the narrative appropriately.
For the first feature by such young, fresh talent was refreshing to see. Director Rishi Pelham did a phenomenal job of telling Hilda's story and transforming his script into reality in a compelling and nuanced way. I urge you to seek out Hilda, great attention to detail in telling a sophisticated character study takes you on a dark yet beautifully real descent alongside a hopelessly damaged young woman.