Several minutes into her twice-eponymous film, Madeline (Helena Howard), cocooned in an elaborate turtle costume, waddles along the beach. She rushes toward the breaking waves as the camera jerks behind. “Madeline, what are you doing?” a voice chides.
Suddenly we’re inside an empty theater. Madeline lies prostrate on a bare stage, breast-stroking the air in a green sweater. “You were a sea turtle and then you were a woman playing a sea turtle,” instructs Evangeline (Molly Parker), Madeline’s experimental theater troupe director. She clasps Madeline’s hands. “Whose hands are those? Are they yours, or are they the turtle’s?”
In Madeline’s Madeline, there’s a loopy line between the real and the imagined. Chaos is the movie’s baseline, with fractured images and sounds that bleed and blur and quake, so unstable as to feel radioactive. Ordinary exchanges erupt into abstract colors; scenes drag out or last just a few moments. The movie’s one constant is Madeline, a temperamental teenager and aspiring stage actor who appears in nearly every frame. We get to know her image well: stormy eyes, lanky limbs, sly smile. It’s ironic that she becomes our visual anchor when she can’t find stable ground herself.
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