The stark simplicity of minimalist architecture and the effortless beauty of youth bring a soothing quality to Spanish Director Hadi Moussally’s film. The work is set at the Fundacio Mies Van Der Rohe – a sparse, linear world created by the eponymous architect, dubbed the ‘father of minimalism’. The framing creates a delicious surface tension everywhere – swathes of cool marble, imposing glass windows and cool rectangular pools of water – the hard lines created by the architecture are used to dissect the screen, offering a playful sense of contrasting perspectives and scale. Some divisions create reflections, some create giants, others slice through the space to create alternative, unexpected sources of gravity, tipping entire scenarios onto their head or side.

Against the geometric backdrop dancers appear. Lithe under the sun, they are plasticity itself; soothingly soft-edged with luminous flesh stretching and folding, they interact slickly with the space by sliding against its sooth surfaces, running through it, crumpling against it. The dancers are notably, almost explicitly, young, beautiful and able bodied. No points for inclusivity here I’m afraid, but if we consider the absence of anything other than highly-trained, athletic dancers a creative choice as any other, it prompts us to ask what Moussally wants to tell us in this exploration of empathy that only the most agile can express. Perhaps, as he suggests, the truth is in the detail.


For the most part the dancers are inter-connected and responsive to each other, moving in harmony. So much so that they physically support each-other; in pairs, one holds the full body weight of another on his shoulders, others sit together with arms linked, torsos folding over their knees in fluid synchronicity. Solo moments offer an equally pleasing sense of softness and ease; one dancer rocks sinuously against a marble wall, resting gently on his forehead. As he twists to move away, his fingers trail behind him and you can almost feel the cool gloss of the stone on your own fingertips.

A shot from Truth is in the details by Hadi Moussally

In the minutiae, though, cracks begin to show. There are small fluctuations in the relationships between the dancers that disconnect them; gazing through glass windows unseeing and separate, moving together but facing different directions, the pace of one fast and urgent whilst the others are still or stirring. It’s as though the wifi is unreliable at times, the connection falling out. But these junctures are swiftly followed by moments of re-connection, where the dancers reach equanimity again, gently responsive to each other.

One scene suddenly breaks the flow; a single dancer gazes intently and directly at the camera in close up. His expression suggests pride or vanity, like the cold, confronting expression of a catwalk model. We see the hands of others appear from behind him, framing his face, wrapping their fingers around his head, drawing it away so that he must ricochet it back. It is not clear whether the hands are pulling at him uncomfortably or caressing him gently, there’s an unsettling ambiguity to it. The sense of slight discord leads me to look for other breaches and I begin to notice them. One scene is cut in half by an invisible horizon, creating what appears to be a reflection in the bottom part of the screen. But what appears at first to be symmetry is actually not; it’s disrupted by small differences – a dancer at the top falls out of a headstand earlier than his counterpart, there’s a slight anomaly in the way that another folds his body at the edge of the space. At moments, if I look very closely, I can see that the filmed choreography seems to be playing backward. It’s not easy to spot these irregularities but, when I do, I feel as though I’ve discovered a glitch in the matrix.

I begin to wonder whether Moussally is showing us an illusion of perfection, only to disrupt it with details that reveal the imperfect ‘truth’. After all, art can hold up a mirror to life and reflect back all the beauty of youth for us to admire, it can fulfil our needs by soothing our souls or reassuring us. But reality bites. If art holds up a mirror to life it must reflect the truth in all its multitudinousness. Particularly for the generation of people depicted here, truth includes an increasingly disconnected human experience – a digital world, a virtual world, a world that has had its roots pulled up. I notice that Moussally has included just one prop in this work – an umbrella – a symbol of resistance, allyship and solidarity; or perhaps just a shield from that which threatens you.

The closing scene shifts away completely from the smooth organisation and small discordances of Van Der Roh, the godlike figure who has loomed large over every scene. We see one dancer’s feet stepping out into a pocket of dappled forest that looks cool and shady and whose lush, knee-deep vegetation now fills the screen. Others follow, emerging quietly from behind the foliage one by one, gathering, facing each other in a circular formation. Folding bit by bit into an assemblage of interconnected shapes in the soft light of afternoon, my previous watchfulness fades away, giving over to peace. There’s something tender here that feels like home, like hope – like we’ve all arrived and connected. I feel myself exhale, as the camera cuts away into blackness.

This material was created within the project Translation on Air – a section dedicated to dance for the screen or screendance. Every month we invite the professional and amateur audience, tempted by this intriguing symbiosis between cinema and dance, to join our readings, conversations, and discussions with active practitioners and choreographers in this field from the country and abroad.

The project Translation on Air is implemented with the financial support of the National Fund Culture under the program Audiences 2020 and One-Year Grant 2021.

Lydia Wharf is an independent producer working in contemporary dance theatre, specialising in practices of care, access and inclusion. She works directly with artists, supporting them across a range of inter/nationally significant initiatives. Currently working with Dance Umbrella, Julie Cunningham & Company, Stuart Waters, Rhiannon Faith Company and Stephanie Handjiiska, Lydia has a long, twisty relationship with dance; as performer, writer, advocate and producer.