A group of teenage girls have been having a sleepover at the apartment of birthday girl Eden (Atheena Frizzell), but are woken by the rumbling and crashing sounds of a disaster occurring outside, which as they are on the ground floor, has seen them trapped under the collapse of rubble. The first two girls to emerge blinking in the gloom are Olivia (Ariela Barer) and Dolly (Ryan Simpkins), and they are confused as to what has gone on, but Olivia recognises early on there are no authority figures around, leaving the eight girls to fend for themselves. But if they cannot get out, will they have to stay where they are until they are rescued? They have no real ideas...
Ladyworld could best be described as the cinematic equivalent of agitprop theatre, that aggressive, in your face, at times non-narrative experience that hit its heights in the late nineteen-sixties and into the seventies, becoming a performance art movement that was as often held up to ridicule as it was admired. Actually, it was ridiculed even more than it was admired, as exactly the sort of thing that was chasing the average punter away from the theatres and leaving it for an elitist collection of cleverer-than-thou intelligentsia, or alternatively, an avowedly proletarian set of values that would feature political lecturing meshed into whatever they had dreamt up for their dramatic premise.
Films followed suit, and again failed to garner much of a following outside of the more adventurous, or if you were more cynical, those laughing along because they did not wish to be seen not to be getting the joke. This example was dreamt up by its director Amanda Kramer and her co-screenwriter Noel David Taylor with as much a mission as any of its purposefully right-on predecessors, the notion being that by adopting the framework and some of the plot details of William Golding's The Lord of the Flies and applying them to female characters instead of male ones they would frame the feminine experience and depiction in a manner that was highly unconventional.
Well, they certainly did that, but you just had to see the tiny, or "specialist" audiences for all the aforementioned theatre nights to understand that there was not going to be a mass of eager viewers flocking to this one. A cult following was going to be its best bet, but even that was going to have to have a high tolerance for deliberately alienating techniques, as if Kramer was daring you to keep watching and test your mettle for manically unfriendly sound and visuals. The sound design in particular was very precisely crafted, from ambient groans from the city to the cast's vocals arranged in anything from chanting to screaming fashion, and was probably the piece's strongest suit if you were genuinely engaged by it. Especially when the imagery was as gloomy as that presented in the buried apartment.
Yet for all its intellectual musings over the relationships between women and what they would be like if placed in a pressure cooker situation - "What does this tell us about society?" you can practically hear the director inquiring over every scene - the real world it purported to be connected to and commenting on tended to intrude under every breakdown of a community it represented. For a start, and most glaringly, the girls made a very weak effort to get out of their prison, and indeed it did look as if they would have been able to escape with a little effort; once you notice that, and if you had not been alerted to it already, the artificiality of Ladyworld would be staring you in the face even more than the contrived nature of the set-up. And that was a problem, as even by the end you did not feel as if you had learned very much since it was so divorced from the reality it supposed to be commenting on. By the time it had reached its inevitable conclusion, many would have abandoned it long before. Music by Callie Ryan.