Phantom is about infertility - the fear, the grief, the guilt. It is a film about wanting, and being denied what you need. It is a film about being a young woman, turning 30, confronting your own body, own sexuality, in today’s society. The film exposes one woman’s perspective, investigating her motivations for wanting a child and the choices she makes after discovering the unlikelihood of conceiving a baby with her husband. There is a painful tension here over precisely how far we can, and should, go in pursuit of our desires. Can the hope for a child manifest itself into a deeply selfish obsession? Should women be free to take charge of their destiny, their body, without the consent of a man, of society? I want Phantom to speak to modern women by asking difficult questions about the role a woman’s “biological clock” might play in informing her decisions, as well as exposing the pressure society puts upon us to fit into clearly defined, and often polarised, identities: mother-daughter; friend-rival; good-bad. At the heart of the piece is an exploration of female sexuality, fertility, fear and more broadly, human nature itself: our need to create, to live, to survive.
The story of Rachel in the Old Testament spoke powerfully to me of the difficulties of knowing yourself in a world that seeks to define you. Rachel’s struggle to conceive and her superstitious actions are condemned by her family. Today, we live with a continuous fear of judgement and the quest for acceptance on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, making Rachel’s story all too relatable. Rachel suffers because she is jealous of her sister’s pregnancies; in the film, Rachel’s jealousy is a paranoia born of the online world, imagining everyone else to be happy. The film will unpick the roles, identities and expectations that we have placed upon women historically and today. We expect young woman to move easily between child, teenager, grown up, partner, mother. Yet I think a lot of young women like myself can struggle to reconcile these identities, which often feel imposed on us. Rachel’s story is full of complex ambiguities; in the bible, Rachel is rewarded with a baby but in this film, Rachel must confront the consequences of her actions, exploding the tensions at the heart of the story: of female sexuality, independence, self-consciousness and the innate danger of living in our image-obsessed society.