Written on Water

A choreographer must face an unresolved romantic encounter from her past as she creates a new dance work. Directed by Filmmaker/Choreographer Pontus Lidberg and featuring étoile dancer and Paris Opera Ballet director Aurélie Dupont, with Alexander Jones, Pontus Lidberg, Stina Ekblad and Leslie Caron.

Happily married but still haunted by an unresolved love affair from her past, choreographer Alicia (Aurélie Dupont) searches through the depths of her memories to create Siren, a new dance piece about unfulfilled desire. Against the backdrop of an ageing theatre by the sea, Alicia builds a sensual and naked ensemble work that is delicately held together by the threads connecting her dancers with each other and with her. She soon finds herself fallen down the rabbit hole of her own creation, in love with the male lead dancer, Giovanni (Alexander Jones), as the siren of her fictional work slowly becomes the siren of her life. When Alicia recounts this story to Karl (Pontus Lidberg), his own story brings a new dimension to this exploration of desire and artistic creation. Written on Water is a sensual and philosophical interrogation of the permeable boundaries between fiction and reality, muse and siren and and the changeable roles we play—Odysseus, sailor, siren—in our lifelong quests for connection, love, and inspiration.

  • Pontus Lidberg
    The Rain, Labyrinth Within
  • Pontus Lidberg
    The Rain, Labyrinth Within
  • François Duplat
    Au revoir les enfants by Louis Malle, Reunion by Jerry Schatzber, Dr. M by Claude Chabrol, La Reine Margot by Patrice Chereau (co-producer), The Serpent’s Kiss de Philippe Rousselot (executive producer), The Usual Suspects by Bryan Singer (executive producer), Hard Eight by Paul Thomas Anderson (executive producer)
  • Amaury Lafarge
  • Aurélie Dupont
    Key Cast
  • Pontus Lidberg
    Key Cast
  • Leslie Caron
    Key Cast
    An American in Paris, Gigi, The L shaped room
  • Stina Ekblad
    Key Cast
    Fanny and Alexander
  • Alexander Jones
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Dance, Drama
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 21 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    January 23, 2020
  • Production Budget:
    500,000 EUR
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
    Cuba, France, United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Pontus Lidberg

Choreographer, filmmaker, dancer and recipient of a 2019 John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, Pontus Lidberg has firmly established himself as a creative and visionary artist, merging dance and film.

As a choreographer for the stage, Lidberg has created works for dance companies including Paris Opera Ballet, New York City Ballet, Martha Graham Dance Company, Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, Semperoper Ballet Dresden, Royal Swedish Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, Le Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève, Acosta Danza, Balletboyz and Beijing Dance Theatre, as well as for his own concert group, Pontus Lidberg Dance. Pontus Lidberg Dance has been presented by New York City Center’s Fall For Dance Festival, the Havana International Ballet Festival, the Spoleto Festival, The Joyce Theater and the National Arts Center of Canada. His work Siren received a Villanueva Award from UNEAC, The National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba, as one of the best performances presented in Cuba in 2018.

His film, The Rain received numerous awards. The New York Times wrote “memorably, The Rain illustrates what filmed dance can say that staged dance cannot.” His film Labyrinth Within won Best Picture at the Dance on Camera Festival in 2012. He was nominated for a New York Dance and Performance Award (Bessie) in Outstanding Visual Design, for his dance and film evening WITHIN (Labyrinth Within)—created during his 2012 tenure as Resident Artistic Director of Morphoses. The New York Times applauded this contemporary story ballet, “told without mime and driven by emotional and psychological textures… [Lidberg] sublimates the academic language of ballet, dissolving it into knotty partnering that manages, by and large, to avoid the churning clichés of much contemporary movement in the form. It is refreshing to see a ballet embracing the virtues of restraint.” Raised in Stockholm, Sweden, Lidberg trained at the Royal Swedish Ballet School. He holds an MFA in Contemporary Performing Arts from the University of Gothenburg, Faculty of Fine, Applied and Performing Arts. He is the Artistic Director of Danish Dance Theatre in Copenhagen, Denmark.

“In this frenzied and invigorating race, Lidberg makes you feel all the harmony that can exist between two beings... one would almost believe that love stories never end badly. Sublime.”
François Delétraz, LE FIGARO MAGAZINE, February 22, 2019

“Siren has all the features of a masterpiece... A work both delicate and dense with a feeling of truth, sustained by a rare expressive clarity”
Anna Bandettini, LA REPUBBLICA, September 2, 2018

“No trite conclusions, just a world of layered emotion made inexplicably potent.”
Judith Mackrell, THE GUARDIAN, April 21, 2016

“Rabbit, Swedish choreographer and filmmaker Pontus Lidberg’s ode to childhood, is so wonderfully precise, so cleverly comedic that it’s akin to watching a dozen wind-up toys set off at the same time.”
Vanessa Keys, THE TELEGRAPH, April 21, 2016

“Pontus Lidberg has an aura of a refined creator and a state of grace, his work breathes the same.”
Roger Salas, EL PAIS, July 18, 2015

“Pontus Lidberg’s eponymous New York-based company brought an elegant Nordic aesthetic and seamless movement to intense choreography in which groups shift and change in an exploration of the psyche. Underpinning his work are a subtle theatricality and a taste for the unexpected”
Gerald Dowler, THE FINANCIAL TIMES, November 4, 2014

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Director Statement

Much as poetry may bend or jettison the rules of grammar to achieve emotional or metaphoric effect, this film embraces the expressive ability of the body to represent qualities that fall within the realm of imagination and emotion. The permeable boundaries between the dance and the drama around it, highlight a core idea of the film: that our subjective perceptions and personal interpretations become our reality.
An artist gets caught in his own work. Is he living in recreated memories from the past? The film’s story of an artist creating fiction, then getting lost in it, is a metaphor for how we often live our lives. We inhabit our stories, live in our own recollection of past events and past traumas. We project ourselves upon others and then interpret these projections as a reflection of reality. This is particularly true in romantic love. When strong emotional forces are at play, rational understanding is often not enough to balance and counteract our strong drive to recreate our reality. Water as a thematic through-line gives the story a sort of magical realism, and a means to visualise these philosophical perspectives.