In 2013, at the end of a screening of Alexe Poukine’s first feature film, a woman (Ada) approached her and told her a story. It was the story of what happened to her nine years earlier, something that almost a decade later she still struggled to come to terms with. She was 19 back then and had freshly embarked on the adventure of life, having moved to Lille to study and live with a friend. But shortly after, a man she knew raped her three times within a one-week period, and it changed the course of her life. After meeting her again and having her write down what happened, Poukine turned Ada’s story into a film.
Its structure is so simple but so powerful. Several people narrate Ada’s story in the first person, like it’s theirs, while Poukine films and interacts with them at times. The result is a visceral portrait of what happened to this woman, and its collective narration goes beyond the limits of what the story is. «Embodying» Ada’s words awakens the narrator’s own feelings and experiences. Their emotions unfold to reveal their own process of embodying her, their judgments, and how they came to understand the young woman deeper. This turns everything into a mosaic that illustrates just how commonplace sexual abuse actually is.
The narrative is captivating, arresting and extremely intimate, alternating facts with feelings and introspections, keeping the viewer wanting to know what happened next. Beyond that, it is the storytellers’ own reflections on what «becoming Ada» meant to them that opens up a new dimension in the film. Their experience comforts the viewer with just how easy it is to judge the victim, for example, when the story does not comply with the commonly understood idea of what rape actually means. Even though such an experience is complex in many ways, it is most often reduced to basic facts. It is by adding all the definitory microelements usually unseen – of thoughts and actions unfolding at the moment in real-time – that others can truly begin to empathize and understand.
Ada’s story opens a common human space, revealing how abuse can actually lie in the familiar
It’s these exact elements that make That Which Does Not Kill so vivid. Not only those of Ada’s story …
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