Spoilers for Annihilation below.
In the feverish crescendo Annihilation’s wordless climax, the name Bobbi Jene crept into my otherwise paralyzed brain. I’m no modern dance buff, and the dancer and choreographer is not someone who would have been on the tip my tongue if it wasn’t for last year’s ravishing documentary Bobbi Jene, by director Elvira Lind. The film introduced me to Bobbi Jene Smith, and her ability to turn her entire body into a lightning rod instinct through her charged, emotionally (and sometimes physically) naked choreography, as sensual as it is self-destructive. Watching Natalie Portman stuck in a seemingly inescapable dance with her faceless, iridescent double — watching it turn violent, not out malice, but because it can’t help but be — called to mind Smith’s controlled throwing herself across a performance space, the internal passion and turmoil the self made physical.
I was impressed, then, to see that Smith herself had choreographed that scene — and that perhaps the emotional wallop it delivered wasn’t just my own projection. The face-f occurs at the end the film’s trek into the Shimmer, a mysterious, probably paranormal zone that is spreading through the Florida swampland in which all manner biological impossibilities are taking place. Portman’s Lena is a biologist who has volunteered for the expedition after her husband (Oscar Isaac) has come back inexplicably altered from the same mission. Leading the team is Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh,) a psychologist who has been overseeing all previous expeditions from the Southern Reach base camp (none which, with the exception Lena’s husband, have ever returned) while, it is later revealed, slowly dying cancer.