Deborah Kampmeier is a unique cinema talent. Her film “Hounddog” was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and won the top jury prize, Best of the Show, at the 2009 Female Eye Film Festival in Toronto. Deborah directs films which feature strong female characters and an unstinting veracity. And as an acting teacher, she has an almost magical ability to pull the deepest emotions from her students. These two qualities have combined in her third feature film “Split.”
“Split” is the story of a young woman’s journey to claim her own darkness and sexuality so she can stop putting it into the hands of her abusive lover. The lead character, Inanna — a young actress, working as a stripper — becomes obsessed with a mask maker and begins to sacrifice parts of herself and her life, piece by piece, in order to win his love. At the same time she begins a mythic journey in the theater — one that forces her to face the many abuses endured by women everywhere.
The model for the script, the ancient Sumerian myth “Inanna’s descent to the underworld,” also informed the title design in the simplest manner. The opening titles move from top to bottom (descent) and the closing titles go from bottom to top (emergence). This is mirrored in the cinematography, with an opening shot under the Williamsburg Bridge panning down to the East River, and a closing image of nude women emerging from a cave into sunlight.
But since this a mythological journey, and since we were creating titles for an independent, almost avant-garde film, another layer seemed appropriate. The title of the film was deconstructed into occasional, liminal flashes taken from one of the great western myths, the Book of Genesis. In the beginning was the Word: IT. Let there be light: LIT. Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place: SPIT.
Generally, the goal was to begin the film in a calm and deliberate manner. Restrained colors and motion act as counterpoint to the ferocious acting workshop at the beginning and the first words in the script, “Fucking critics…”
That ferocity builds throughout the film, and culminates in a remarkable, animalistic female masturbation sequence which became source material for the film’s poster.
“I wanted to show real sexuality. Female sexuality is presented in our culture as a male fantasy. The actress, Raïna von Waldenburg, who masturbates in ‘Split,’ is an incredible, ferocious woman. What have women in their 50s, women like myself, had to do to break through the male fantasy and find their true, authentic sexuality? This woman has done that and she is pushing Inanna to claim her own rage and sexuality. It’s not pretty and it’s not what you see in porn. It’s volatile.” — Deborah Kampmeier