ScreeningNotes’s review published on Letterboxd:
Healing emotional/psychological trauma through communal ritual
Dani is broken. She loses her family, and her boyfriend is barely present enough to comfort her. She has become unmoored, lost her sense of place in the community and the world. Maybe joining a weird, creepy cult is exactly what she needs in order to heal this loss.
Sabina Magliocco argues that there’s a lack of meaningful rituals in Western society, particularly for women, caused by the effects of secularization and neoliberal capitalism, and she calls for the creation of new rituals as a form of emotional healing:
Behind this flowering of new ritual forms are two broader trends. The first is the increasing secularization of Western societies, which has left us bereft of rituals, and often feeling that the remaining ones have lost some of their significance, especially under the influence of the second trend: the growing commercialization of ritual occasions ... under the influence of neoliberal capitalism. These twinned processes have left many feeling that existing rituals lack meaning ... In this context, the creation of new, creative, situationally specific rituals becomes necessary ... A key tenet is the notion that he current state of affairs in the world is deeply flawed: our society is literally making us ill ... In this context, understandings of healing go beyond the curing of physical illness to include the expression and resolution of negative emotions stemming from past traumas and/or the subject’s experiences of disempowerment, alienation, and subjection to damaging modes of thought.
She even makes specific reference to a ritual practice in Italy remarkably similar to what Dani participates in:
In workshops that take place either at festivals or as part of sacred journeys to Italy, women learn the music, drum rhythms, dance forms and body postures associated with this folk practice, and through them access deeply buried emotions. They express them publicly in all-night dance rituals where women twirl, shake, scream, fall to the floor, writhe and beat their fists and head against the ground. Trulsson argues that these rituals shape women’s emotions into patterns of social performance in which elaborate movements do not just express emotions, but actually constitute them.
And finally, she explains how these rituals fill the void of both self and community felt by Dani after her loss:
Ritual healing involves a set of performative acts intended to link self and Other: the social other, in the form of the healer, and the sacred Other. The sacred Other is the ultimate source of transformative power; it defines us according to what we are not, while being grounded in our own embodiment as material creatures (Csordas 1997:5). Spiritual power is transferred from the sacred Other to the self by means of ritual healing, creating an intimate link between subject, community, and the sacred (Csordas 1997:54–55). This contact with sacredness, however it is imagined by a specific culture or individual, is ultimately ‘a touchstone of our humanity’ (Csordas 1997:5); it is what makes us whole and grants us a sense of connection to community and the world.