"The Moon Inside You" is a personal journey into the mysteries and many prejudices surrounding menstruation. But director Diana Fabiánová’s attempt to tell the whole story causes a lack of focus in the film and makes it feel fumbling.
Country: Spain, France, Slovakia 2009, 75 min.

The premise of the film is clear from the very first scenes: the director has decided that menstruation is a taboo which should be dealt with. As viewers, we are supposed to follow the director on an enlightening journey and find out what menstruation is all about. I am not sure I agree with the basic premise of the film. I am not sure menstruation is a taboo. It is true that menstruation is not something we talk much about – but that does not necessarily make it a taboo, does it? We don’t talk much about toothache or erection difficulties either but to my mind that doesn’t make them taboos.

However, the subject of menstruation offers some powerful material and even though I don’t agree with the director’s point of departure the film does intrigue me at times.

The basic idea and structure of the film is that of a journey. A journey the director Diana Fabiánová takes along with the viewer to discover what it is about menstruation that makes it a complex phenomenon laden with prejudice, mystery and even fear. The complexity of the subject turns the film into a complex and somewhat disorderly experience.

At first, logic is still at hand. Diana starts with herself and her own experience of menstruation. How she has always felt great pain, depression, and anxiety during her monthly period. She wants to see if she can find people who can help her feel better when she has her period. But this personal endeavour to find a “cure” for menstruation is not enough for her and the film. She moves rapidly in many different directions at the same time. She wants to know everything. What are the biological aspects of menstruation? Why do women menstruate? What kind of cultural differences interfere with the ways societies deal with menstruation? How do women in different cultures live with their period? And what about young girls? The questions are many, the answers flicker.
As viewers, we are led from one expert to the other. From dance classes in Spain that try to connect the female with her abdomen to yet another American anthropologist explaining the hows and whats of the female menstrual cycle. From a German yoga teacher talking about the benefits of masturbation in dealing with menstrual pain to a Brazilian doctor who has had a degree of success with treatments that prevent menstruation. It is a chaotic and largely unsatisfying filmic structure. Diana Fabiánová’s search becomes the film’s search. The essayistic form can function in many ways but in The Moon Inside You it feels fumbling and hesitant, which does nothing for the story.

Most successful are the recurring scenes in which a young teenage girl records her everyday life leading up to the day she gets her first period. These scenes have a calming honesty and contain much more relevant information than the (too) many talking heads. Also beneficial to the film are the poetical intermezzos where Diana Fabiánová plays herself and, for instance, illustrates how she gets a more aggressive appetite for men during her period. Other intermezzos are less convincing. Fabiánová makes extensive use of archive material. Sometimes the clips are used as illustrative points, other times the director wants to achieve a humorous tone, which often feels somewhat distracting and unnecessary. It feels a little like the director does not really believe in her material and has not reached any conclusions about how best to tell the story she wants to tell.

Some years ago Jay Rosenblatt made a similar film dealing with the same subject (Period Piece, 1996). Rosenblatt focused more specifically on various women’s experiences of their first period. This collective of women recalling memories of their first period works in a more subtle way than Fabiánová’s attempt to make a “menstruation film”. Rosenblatt seems more sincerely driven by curiosity: but not wishing to dwell on motive analysis here, I will instead state that the Rosenblatt film succeeded in creating a more thought-provoking and stimulating atmosphere.

Towards the end of Fabiánová’s film and the end of her journey we meet a perspective on menstruation which is perhaps the best part of the film. The period can be looked upon as a time during which a woman is actually the most connected with her inner life and her own body. If women are able to view menstruation as a unique monthly opportunity to get to know themselves even better and to look inwards at deeper truths, then the individual woman and society as a whole have much to gain. There might be a somewhat clichéd, new-age appeal to the idea of menstruation as a monthly “giving birth to yourself” but the dimension of collectivity and connection between females creates a relevant and interesting full-stop in an otherwise lumpy documentary.