Review of Jordan Skutar’s The Body of a Rational Creature
The Body of a Rational Creature (2021). Written and directed by Jordan Skutar. Starring Jordan Skutar.
The short film The Body of a Rational Creature was written, directed by, and stars Jordan Skutar, who also admirably also shares director of photography credit with Josh Geyer.
Known only as “Girl,” the protagonist, a plainly dressed 25-year-old woman compellingly portrayed by Skutar herself, is raped by a man and then tormented and shamed for it by a cast of twelve anonymous actors dressed in black and wearing COVID masks.
There is no dialogue, just one monologue that starts the film. Skutar as writer and first-time director expertly uses sound and music to bring the viewer inside the protagonist’s mind. During the rape scene, a monologue tells the story of a cosmonaut who battles an annoying ticking sound in space. The sound he cannot stop becomes torture, much like words that will soon socially label Girl.
Words written on mirrors– “slut”, “whore”, “bitch” –force her to relive the rape over and over. Even though we never hear them come from the mouths of the crowd, we know the words reverberate in Girl’s mind. The anonymous cast literally pushes her, labels her, and yet, instead of words, Skutar allows music to swallow the scene. Girl looks to them for emotional help in dealing with the violation of her body. But the beats drum in the fact that no one believes her and the bass hammers down the victim-blaming. It’s almost too much to bear. Girl has no ally. No one understands. She looks for, if not sympathy, empathy. Yet, one man in the cast smells her weakness, using it only to abuse her again.
As one of the directors of photography as well as writer/director and lead in the film, Skutar shows us the violence and bullying in a merciful way. With her talented eye, the harassment becomes a ballet where tormentors romp around Girl. The story jetés through sharp, violent plot points to gain momentum and strength–a superbly clever filmmaking technique that mimics the arc of the protagonist.
After an agonizing breakdown, Girl rises from the ashes of her trauma. Like the cosmonaut’s story at the beginning of the film, she learns to love the sounds that torment her. She incorporates the words in the mirrors into her own self-empowerment, breaking each word down and shattering its power over her. At the end, she stands tall, daring anyone to try to strip her of her newfound strength.
In the face of an unfair world that will beat women down, gaslight them into thinking they are weak and that men own their self-worth, Skutar’s work shows that women are more powerful than they know and that their strength will reveal itself when it’s needed most. Women who are broken down can always rise up again.
The film’s powerful storyline is treated with the greatest respect in the direction of the cast and is well played out by Skutar as the lead. The crowd of shamers adds tension and carries anguish throughout the film. Their COVID masks add a terrifying aspect to the storyline–hinting that “slut shaming” is a plague.
It is a masterclass in filmmaking that Skutar is able to show us all of this in approximately five minutes of film. Anyone watching The Body of a Rational Creature will be impressed with Skutar’s skills as director, actor, writer, and director of photography. Her powerful voice and immense talent will no doubt lead to many more provocative, empowering, and thoughtful films, and I, for one, look forward to each project she adds to her feminist catalogue.