One woman’s universe expands the more she connects with her lover. An intimate lesbian love story told in contemporary dance, The Ocean celebrates love’s ultimate triumph over fear.
When Wallis first mentioned The Ocean – a new devotional song for her partner Tracey – I prodded her on the inspiration behind it, pencil at the ready. “Looking at Tracey is like looking out on an ocean of planetary systems”, she mused. The image wouldn’t budge from my brain. I began to see the film play out in a mini universe of magical realism… set on an ocean bed in space; allowing for a feeling of both expansion and intimacy between our pair of lovers. As Wallis likens her partner in the song to “… the ocean and the moon that controls it…”, I felt there should be a gravitational pull of sorts, a dance, between camera and lovers. One that ebbs and flows, building to a crescendo with a full orbit, as their connection matures from avoidant to secure… fantasy into reality… fear into love… darkness into light.
Surrounding our lovers, as they dance the story into life, is the invisible potential for a powerful connection. This invisible potential is our third character in the film; represented by the ocean of floating metaphors – planet bubbles – which hover and wait patiently to be ‘ignited’. In this way, we begin our love story in darkness, with the first scene depicting the real-life moment Wallis meets Tracey for the first time, sitting on the kitchen floor of a party in Berlin feeling blue. As we flow through their personal story of falling in love… pulling away/pushing back… and letting go, the planet bubbles support the narrative by igniting at key turning points in the relationship, expanding their universe and finally filling it with love.
I invited choreographer Yukino McHugh to join me once I had a clear vision for how the story should play out onscreen, with these key ignitions and chapters of emotion defined. We collaborated closely on bringing the storyboard to life; brainstorming, sketching, experimenting, testing, trying and refining in rehearsals until Yukino’s final stunning choreography for shoot day.
Wallis and I made The Ocean, in part, as a celebratory gift for our younger selves who struggled with our sexuality growing up in Ireland. It’s also dedicated to the millions of LGBTQ+ people around the world who still struggle as we speak, especially in the 72 countries where homosexuality is still a crime. We’d love for our LGBTQ+ family and allies around the world to enjoy a celebration of lesbian intimacy onscreen – one that’s directed with a female gaze. Perhaps The Ocean can also be used as an antidote to any invisible fear or shame we may carry around inside of us. The kind Hannah Gadbsy so brilliantly described in Nanette earlier this year.
We want to say that true love is tender, passionate and powerful – whatever your creed, culture or identity. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. On the contrary; it’s a love worthy of the biggest celebration.