Anahita has spent most of her life at Spiral Farm. She lives there with her mother, sister, and young nephew, whom she loves very much. While idyllic, Spiral Farm is separated from other communities and somewhat isolated. Into this seemingly peaceful setting comes Maurizio, a former lover of Anahita's mother, Di. While Maurizio brings a distinctive change to the community, it is his young son, Theo, who brings the drama, especially for the young women of Spiral Farm. Anahita's burgeoning sexuality, her love of dance, and her desire to see what lies beyond the community are all stoked by her interactions with Theo. Theo takes Anahita to a dance audition in the city. She does not get the part, but she does get her first taste of the city and she likes that taste. Before returning to the community, Theo and Anahita spend a night in a motel, thereby further stirring Anahita's sexuality. And Maurizio offers to help Anahita move to the city to attend college. At the end of the movie, Ahahita faces the choice between staying in her familiar surroundings with the people who depend on her or striking out on her own to create a new life for herself.
The movie offers the audience an interesting story and you feel as though you are a part of that story. The movie, however, is much more than its story. It examines what it means to live separately from the larger community, to live in isolation from others. How does living in a closed community affect who we are and how we understand the world? Spiral Farm is almost a little universe all unto itself. And, what does living apart from others mean for connecting to the world at large? What is the allure of the larger community? Can there be an easy transition from one world to another? And back again?
Since many religious groups are similar to Spiral Farm, the movie is also about Amish communities in Iowa, compounds of Mormon polygamists from Arizona all the way to Canada, the Branch Davidians, the followers of the Reverend James Jones in Guyana, small town churches, mega churches, cults of all kinds, home schooled children, even on-line communities. It is also about religion, itself, where religion creates its own world of understanding and values, separating adherents from the larger community.
One technical note about the film: the acting is so natural, so realistic that you feel more like a voyeur than a movie goer. It is as though you are watching real people doing real things in real time. These performances, all of them, draw you into the experiences of the characters. At the end of the film you will want to know whether you, yourself, should stay at Spiral Farm or strike out for the city.
William L. Blizek
University of Nebraska at Omaha, email@example.com
William Blizek is the Founding Editor of the Journal of Religion and Film, and is Professor of Philosophy and Religion at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He is also the editor of the Continuum Companion to Religion and Film (2009).