DENSE: Ashes of God, A Visual Transformation of Poetry

By Leah Sinclair


A continuous, endlessly-unfolding poem, transformed into a beautiful visual experience which challenges the ideals of contemporary dance within cinema. ‘Ashes of God’ celebrates it’s 10th anniversary this year, and to commemorate the occasion, .Cent spoke to the ‘Ashes of God’ team about the gruelling yet rewarding process of developing a visual moving piece of art, derived from an expansive and thorough piece of literature.

“Ashes of God is a very unusual film, emerging from rehearsals in the dance studio, based on themes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses (I),” says director Andre Semenza. Metamorphoses, a lengthy, unconventional poem made up of fifteen books with over 250 myths, inspired Semenza with it’s spontaneous nature, and lack of central character. “There was no conventional script, we were witnessing something powerful, something profoundly human take shape; we were gathering ideas and clues, a point of view, a cinematic shape.”

Filmed in Brazil’s Ribeirão Vermelho,  ‘Ashes of God’ tells the story of a woman returning to a realm where ‘trapped souls’ reside and are stuck with a range of memories which they relive, release and attempt to challenge. The production of  ‘Ashes of God’ was a gruelling one, and required the hard work and depth needed from all involved to transform and create this piece. “We worked 18-hour days, sometimes in freezing temperatures, bothered by ticks, in dust and mud. The choreography worked with Grotowskian technique and repetition, the pursuit of authenticity, and the discipline and focus of a film shoot elevated the performers into a state of urgency, a kind of trance.”

This disciplinary nature continued from filming to post production, as the same rigorous technique continued long after shooting. “In post-production the material was scrutinized and re-evaluated; a flow, an inner rhythm had to be carved anew. Editing the footage therefore became another vital choreographic tool. The creation of the musical journey in tandem with picture editing, created a new thrust and logic. ”

Working with such a dense piece of poetry and transforming it visually reacquires a level of professionalism that is admired by many, and even 10 years after it’s premiere,  ‘Ashes of God’ still amazes audience today.





Ashes of God is available to purchase here

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