Morgana (2019) [Fantasia Festival 2020]

Isabel Peppard and Josie Hess’s “Morgana” is a documentary begging to be turned in to a feature film. It’s a wonderful and heartbreaking account of sexual repression, forced domesticity and using pornography as a means of re-claiming individuality. “Morgana” is short, but it’s an engaging journey in to the life of Morgana Muses, who suddenly found herself without the demands of a marriage that offered zero fullfilment. When she’s finally free she has no idea what to do with herself. That is until she realizes sex is a big part of what kept her from blossoming as a woman and adult.

After 20 years as a dutiful housewife stuck in a loveless, sexless marriage, Morgana has had enough of her dreary life. Desperately lonely and starved of intimacy, she books a male escort for one last hurrah before ending it all. Her final night takes an unexpected turn when her relationship with the escort opens up a new world of personal and sexual freedom. Instead of killing herself, Morgana makes an award-winning porn film about their date, moves from suburban Australia to Berlin, and becomes a celebrated feminist porn director and star.

Morgana’s life is draped in a lot of ambiguity, which makes her tale of suffering and coming of age so much more compelling. When we see her, she’s hopelessly awash the scars of a terrible marriage that involved destroying her confidence, enthusiasm, and ambition. It is through pornography and erotic art that she’s allowed to pretty much embrace every single desire and fetish she’s ever had from bondage, BDSM, lesbianism, menage a trois, and so much more. Directors Peppard and Hess don’t shy away from the pornographic art pieces that are created by Morgana, as they feature many of the films involved with rendezvous with men and women.

Surprisingly most of the films garner recurring overtones of danger and potential violence. It’s quite a testament to the art of pornography and erotica that when Morgana re-imagines herself as more of a sexual being, she’s quite seductive. When we met her, she’s been reduced to the role of domestic mate, and once she comes out of her shell and explores every single vice of sexuality, she undergoes a shocking transformation. Peppard and Hess focus mainly on Morgana’s quest for not just sexual fulfillment but inner fulfillment as she’s forced to consistently confront the demons of her horrible marriage that almost always stymies any attempt at independence she seeks.

“Morgana” is a stellar documentary about independence, and the way that artistic expression in any form helps us carve out identities and garner some sense of self-control. I hope we can see more from Isabel Peppard and Josie Hess down the line.

The Fantasia International Film Festival runs every year, and this year runs virtually from August 20th until September 2nd.