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Inanna’s Descent and the Modern Underworld: A Revi...

Inanna’s Descent and the Modern Underworld: A Review of Split

inanna danielle dulsky film review culture art media

I don’t want my daughter to grow up pure; I want her to grow up whole mourns the mother of a rape victim in the film Split.

Commonly heralded as a quintessential feminist myth, the Sumerian tale of Inanna’s descent into the underworld reflects the complex wounds experienced by young women as they reconcile sexual autonomy with experiences of trauma and abuse. In Split (premiering March 21st, 2017), writer and director Deborah Kampmeier adapts Inanna’s story to twenty-first century New York, using the concept of the underworld journey as a metaphor for self-transformation, recovery from an abusive relationship, and the quest for self-hood.

The film follows the descent of Inanna (Amy Ferguson), an actor playing the role of her dark-Goddess namesake in a small, New York City production, as she is slowly isolated from all relationships outside of her marriage to an emotionally manipulative and increasingly abusive man. Early in the film, a powerful scene between Inanna’s friend Anja (Anna Mouglalis) and her fiancé Dave (Fredric Lehne) highlights the experience of sexual woundings in terms of fragmentation, with Anja framing her daughter’s rape as having her wholeness stolen.

Inanna’s hasty entry into a marriage with a mask-maker, Derek (Morgan Spector), represents the initial stages of her descent through which her own wholeness is stolen. Paralleling her struggles with playing the role of the Goddess Inanna, the main character is initially driven by a profound, internalized unworthiness. She feels she is unworthy of playing the lead role in the play, continually resisting the vulnerability and raw, primal sexuality demanded by the performance, just as she feels she deserves nothing more than a grossly dysfunctional relationship in which she has become completely powerless. Her marriage is marked by a deep yearning for connection with her husband who offers her only feigned intimacy. Just as Derek crafts masks for the women in the play, he continually projects his own childhood wounds onto his wife, undergirding much of his abusive behavior.

inanna danielle dulsky film review culture art media

In the film’s most pivotal scene, Inanna has been cast out of the circle of her fellow actors, forced to sit in a chair placed several stories above the other women as they confess their righteous rage and enduring grief over collective feminine woundings. One by one, the women begin by saying “I speak for all girls…” and continue with tearful and heart-shattering discussions of genital mutilation, rape used as a weapon, and numerous accounts of patriarchal dominion’s most egregious horrors. The woman playing Ereshkigal in the play (Raina von Waldenburg) lies at the circle’s center, wailing and moaning as each woman speaks. Her enacted anguish reflects the darkest of feminine shadows, as she embodies unbridled and whole-body ire against the social mechanisms which have facilitated such egregious injustices.

It is an immense challenge for a film to capture the intense, communal connection between women as they share their most deeply buried stories, but Split accomplishes this socially invaluable feat brilliantly in this single scene. Following her experience of being above these women as they revealed their scars, both literally and metaphorically, Inanna begins the task of reclaiming herself, gathering the pieces shattered by her abuser and purposed by the bravery of her fellow cast members. She seeks solace in her friendship with Anja, someone her husband forbade her to see, who tells Inanna that she is “not going to die without him,” but she would “die without [her]self.”

The film sorts through the common confusions women experience in a world where feminine, sexual empowerment is rare and abuse emerges through subtle but pervasive mechanisms of emotional control. Wounded women have few myths from which they can draw hope, but Inanna’s story represents the potential for healing through recovery and reintegration. Trauma fractures the self, sending the darkest memories and most shameful shadows underground. Like Inanna, the wounded woman becomes split, and she must enact her own ascent by taking off the masks she was forced to wear and fusing together the parts of herself that have been dismantled.

Split is a modern myth, with Inanna’s heroine’s journey marked by a great unmasking through which she uncovers a truer version of herself. Her empowered growth, supported fully by the other women in her life, allows her the courage to not only accept she has endured the underworld trials but, importantly, is able to also integrate her experience into a new identity. During the final scene of the film, one of the other actors tells Inanna “the ways of the underworld are perfect, and they may not be questioned;” thus, she may never know why she was forced into the descent, but she can trust in the authenticity of her experience whether or not it has a concrete rationale. She can acknowledge her abuse without giving reprieve to her abuser. She can be at once light and dark, broken and whole, devil and angel, for the true healing comes from the integration of her once-fractured pieces into a truer, more cohesive identity.


Follow the film on https://www.facebook.com/Split-a-film-by-Deborah-Kampmeier-145915635430619/Facebook

Check her website out at http://fullmoonfilmsny.com/

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Danielle is a heathen visionary, Aquarian mischief-maker, and word-witch. The author of Woman Most Wild and The Holy Wild., she teaches internationally and has facilitated circles, embodiment trainings, communal spell-work, and seasonal rituals since 2007. She is the founder of The Hag School, the lead teacher for the Flame-Tender Teacher Training, and believes in the emerging power of wild collectives and sudden circles of curious dreamers, cunning witches, and rebellious artists in healing our ailing world. As an Irish-American, Danielle’s witchcraft is deeply rooted in Celtic philosophy and Irish mythology. She believes fervently in the role of ancestral healing, embodiment, and animism in fracturing the longstanding systems supporting white-body supremacy and environmental unconsciousness, is committed to centering the voices and teachings of POC and LGBTQIA+ folks in her work as founder of Living Mandala, LLC and The Hag School and supports organizations and initiatives that do the same. Parent to two beloved wildlings and partner to a potter, Danielle fills her world with nature, family, and intentional awe. Find her praying under pine trees, wandering through the haunted places, and whispering to her grandmothers’ ghosts.
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Danielle is a heathen visionary, Aquarian mischief-maker, and word-witch. The author of Woman Most Wild and The Holy Wild., she teaches internationally and has facilitated circles, embodiment trainings, communal spell-work, and seasonal rituals since 2007. She is the founder of The Hag School, the lead teacher for the Flame-Tender Teacher Training, and believes in the emerging power of wild collectives and sudden circles of curious dreamers, cunning witches, and rebellious artists in healing our ailing world. As an Irish-American, Danielle’s witchcraft is deeply rooted in Celtic philosophy and Irish mythology. She believes fervently in the role of ancestral healing, embodiment, and animism in fracturing the longstanding systems supporting white-body supremacy and environmental unconsciousness, is committed to centering the voices and teachings of POC and LGBTQIA+ folks in her work as founder of Living Mandala, LLC and The Hag School and supports organizations and initiatives that do the same. Parent to two beloved wildlings and partner to a potter, Danielle fills her world with nature, family, and intentional awe. Find her praying under pine trees, wandering through the haunted places, and whispering to her grandmothers’ ghosts.

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