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Sarah Miles

''She returns to the place of her childhood. Hoping to find the truth of her memories'' Quote from Damsel Jam.

Damsel Jam revisits the sweet and painful time of childhood on the brink, a moment when the world is about to change, or more importantly the realisation that childhood is near its end and womanhood is around a corner. The film begins with a young girl entering a clandestine landscape, the dark forest of the fairy story and nightmare rolled into one. Dressed like Alice in Wonderland, she is searching for something, not lost - just not found for the time being. Various female voices of differing ages speak of the experience of being twelve years old. Their poignant re-tellings are mirrored by enchanting imagery and scenes acted out and replayed by both young girls and older women simultaneously.

The film's imagery constantly shifts between childhood and womanhood. A sound track of David Cassidy's ''How can I be sure'' is played, as the older women re-enact a car journey that in a previous scene was played out by the younger girls. Both these sequences act out the fantasy of control and power to varying degrees. For the young girls it is about the potential to perform maturity. For the older women, it is a chance to regain something lost and to reckon with the past at the moment when all seemed possible.

Not knowing what to do when we are intrigued and troubled by memory is the very premise of Damsel Jam, and the claustrophobic interiors of the car sequences echo this visually through their mise en scene. The journeys taken by both the girls and women symbolically transport us from one time scale to another, from the place of memory to the body in the act of remembering. The sequences in the car journey provide a significant visual trope within the film, which recurs throughout several of Miles' other films, such as I Love You and Magnificent Ray. The car interior suggestively becomes a cinema, a site for projection. The only window left clear is the windscreen, signifying a way forward. In the back of the car, the outside world is excluded, suggesting that this interior is the only world - a place where memory and experience collide. In Damsel Jam the car is driven by Hare Girl, incarnated here as both the keeper of secrets and the instigator of drama and events. As she shifts between the generations, she drives them to explore their individual accounts and shared experience, to act out and perform their memories.

Still from Damsel Jam by Sarah Miles, 1992
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