The film opens with Anita’s recurring nightmare, in which she is menacingly approached by a faceless, ragged figure, in a sterile white room. She is torn between anticipation and terror. Night after night, her dreams intensify. During the day, Anita’s anxiety triggers rambling monologues and a need for comfort from her flatmate Bella (sister, lover or friend; it is never stated), but we also witness her spark and humour. Bella, meanwhile, ever the level-headed comforter, finds herself perhaps too steady, and regrets that she is left to ‘play home’ as Anita leaves the house to chase her dreams. Both in their early 20s, they live in a big city such as Manchester. Elements of Anita’s nightmare seep into her real life – dancing women from the sterile room of her dreams run beside her in the park; nearby streetlights becoming inexplicably blinding; she blacks out far too often – and she begins to realise that her fear and anticipation are not misplaced. It doesn’t take long for Bella to lose her calm too, and the film reaches its climax as the faceless figure appears at the door of their flat. Anita and Bella must decide how to react.
I have adapted the story of Martha and Mary when they first meet Jesus (Luke 10:38-42). My storyline is inspired by the different ways they react to Jesus, and how this can provide insight into deeper understandings of their characters. I am telling the part of the story we don’t get: their relationship before Jesus. I have chosen the thriller genre to explore how these distinct characters might react under intense pressure. In my adaptation, Martha and Mary are two modern-day women. Anita (Mary) suffers from terrifying nightmares as a result of unstable mental health. Her anxiety, sometimes existential, requires support from her flatmate Bella (Martha). Bella appears to be more level-headed and mature, but, as is often the way, struggles herself with finding purpose in life and can’t comprehend Anita’s openness with such matters. And although Anita is the one whom the frightening, mysterious and other-worldly ‘Jesus’ character targets, this intrusion affects both women’s lives. They react differently, but they support one another. Too often, it is assumed that Martha ‘got it wrong’ with Jesus, and I want to challenge this interpretation. Jesus loved both Mary and Martha, probably because of their differences, not in spite of them.