Spinneret (2018). 1:40 minutes. Directed by Natasha Cantwell. Featuring: Trudi Ranik and Dean Robinson.
For decades, Comparative Psychologists have been associating human behavior with that of animals and insects. Natasha Cantwell’s short film Spinneret is a clever adaptation of the mating rituals of certain spiders, particularly of the Peacock Spider native to Australia.
The film begins in a city park with a woman moving and shifting from object (a bench) to object (a tree) in sharp, balletic movements. Her head is down, her eyes are up, and she is clearly on high alert. Initially, however, it is difficult to determine whether she is on the hunt, or if her behavior is in response to a perceived threat.
Next, the camera captures a man in a state of relaxation who suddenly becomes aware of the woman’s presence. He remains motionless as the woman, still moving from object to object, makes her way to his side. Once she has settled into her position, she stares at him as though challenging him. The man, in the same sharp, balletic movements, jumps from his seat and proceeds to present himself to the woman through a series of elaborate gestures and movements.
Like the Peacock Spider, the man is putting on a show for the woman, vigorously attempting to impress her with his grand dance moves. Also like the Peacock Spider, the woman sharply assesses the man’s movements, showing no sign of de-escalating her aggressive assessment. The only chance the man and the male Peacock Spider have is to put on the performance of a lifetime.
The quick cuts of the camera and a continuous and darkly brooding violin score backed by repetitive strikes of percussion flawlessly elicit a sense of fear and uncertainty throughout the film. The actors play their parts beautifully as they produce a tense and excessive display that visually parallels the Peacock Spider’s mating rituals. In a more figurative sense, the film highlights the objective absurdity of human courting practices.
Spinneret is a biting analogy of the single-mindedness and tunnel vision humans often adopt when initially honing in on a potential romantic partner. The absurdity of our behaviors can be softened somewhat by the theory that they have developed from evolutionary means. The survival of the species is what it’s all about in the end. Cantwell is tremendously clever in this vehicle for metaphysical extrapolation. She is able to consolidate an infinite amount of theoretical possibilities into a very finite amount of time. Spinneret is certain to stimulate intellectual conjecture about human behavior; Cantwell is a filmmaker after the heart of Comparable Psychology itself.
This fantastic film is embedded below so you can watch it for yourself.