Waterbody (2011) – By Cary Conley

Bianca Spriggs is a renaissance woman: college English professor; workshop facilitator and well-traveled speaker; essayist and poet; and now filmmaker. Based on her poem of the same name, which can be found in her poetry collection, How Swallowtails Become Dragons, Waterbody is a gentle fantasy tale about two friends, one of whom happens to be a mermaid.

A young lady happens upon a sickly mermaid near a fountain in the park. Realizing the mermaid will likely die without help, she takes the mermaid to her home and nurses her back to health. But the mermaid soon transforms into human form while her human friend is transformed into a mermaid. Told without dialogue, this simple film is, well…simply beautiful. This beauty stems both from the story as well as the cinematography. As the mermaid becomes healthier, she finds herself in the unusual predicament of forming legs from her tail. Not only must she learn to walk, she must also learn to become integrated into other human activities–to eat what humans eat, and to function as humans do. These sequences are some of the highlights of the film as the mermaid-turned-human samples everything from spaghetti (in an hilarious scene) to the scent of flowers, the strains of a banjo and fiddle, and even how to purchase various items at a farmer’s market.

But as the two friends continue to bond and the mermaid becomes more comfortable in her new skin, the first young lady becomes slightly distressed to find herself growing scales and aquatic ears. Now it is her newly human friend that must help her acclimate to her transition as a mermaid. Again, the scenes as these two friends interact and learn from each other can be both humorous (our new, red-headed mermaid is given a toy from Disney’s The Little Mermaid, that of the red-headed mermaid from the film) and touching. The final scene depicting the new human friend releasing the new mermaid into a pool with other mermaids is very sweet.

As mentioned before, the cinematography is beautiful and emphasizes the caring relationship these two lost souls develop for each other. The filmic scenes are interspersed with gorgeous black-and-white still shots of the mermaid-turned-human experiencing different senses for the first time–shots of her hands caressing the face on a statue and her nose enveloped by huge flowers–that portray the sheer joy of experiencing something wonderful for the first time. Director of Photography Angel Clark and camera operator Landon Antonelli have a real flair for filmmaking and have created a beautiful summer-like palette of color for the film.

The music is another highlight of Waterbody. Taking her cue from her Appalachian roots, most of the music has a quirky, fun Bluegrass feel that complements each scene in the film. Each song describes perfectly the emotions of the two characters as well as the action occurring within the scene.

Ultimately, Waterbody is a film about friendship and support, but it can also be seen as a metaphor for one’s discovery of his or her own true self. It is a funny, sweet and uplifting film that deserves to be seen. Waterbody has just been premiered to a packed house and is available on DVD through Bianca Spriggs’ own website, www.biancaspriggs.com, where you can find more information about the film as well as Spriggs’ collections of poetry.