The Transience of Life Explored In New Film 'Rite of Pass-Age'

by Christina Donoghue on 10 October 2023

Creative partners Elise By Olsen and Morteza Vaseghi have teamed up to create the film Rite of Pass-Age; a body of work reflecting on life's impermanent and transitory states through the art of clothes and cinema.

Creative partners Elise By Olsen and Morteza Vaseghi have teamed up to create the film Rite of Pass-Age; a body of work reflecting on life's impermanent and transitory states through the art of clothes and cinema.

'Life has revealed itself to me over the last year that everything is a constant act of maintenance. There is never any real arrival or endpoint.' These are not only the words creative director Morteza Vaseghi told me in an interview over Zoom, but also the entire sentiment that underpins Vaseghi's latest body of work produced in collaboration with publishing wunderkind Elise By Olsen, and writer and director Marc Reisbig, Rite of Pass-Age.

Still from 'Rite of Pass-Age'

Directed by Marc Reisbig, the short film takes inspiration from mythology and folklore to realise a theatrical interpretation of Vaseghi's thoughts and ideas. Six characters are featured in total, all bearing names eluding to their personality, strengths and weaknesses, as well as Vaseghi-designed costumes that equip them for the journey ahead. 'Firstly, there's the Outsider, who obviously wants to get in, but their character is written in such a way they need the help of another character, the Wonderer, who is kind of the lost man of the desert', Vaseghi informs. But what about the other four? 'Then we have the muse, she is adored by everyone'. Vaseghi goes on to explain 'she travels freely and floats in and out whenever she pleases', actions contradicted by her opposing character, the 'Gatekeeper, an authority figure, a bit like border control'. The Gatekeeper essentially decides who can go in and who can go out, protecting the ruler inside, 'otherwise known as the Emperor, who is fixated in the centre'. And who's 'the loyal servant and soldier to that person', you ask? 'The Outsider's opposite, the Insider'.

Still from 'Rite of Pass-Age'

The film's existence acts as a precursor of sorts to Vaseghi's own soon-to-be-launched fashion collection, which, when set in motion, will dig even deeper into the story readily laid out in Rite of Pass-Age. Shot over two days using 35mm film in Elise By Olsen's native Oslo and set to Bendik Giske’s 2019 Surrender album, Rite of Pass-Age is dreamlike and abstract, intentionally obscuring the boundaries between reality and imagination while hinting at a larger universe.

Visually speaking, Rite of Pass-Age takes place in the liminal space; a place dominated by being stuck in the 'in-between', an area that has constantly fascinated and creatively inspired Vaseghi's work. 'I've always been interested in this idea of liminality and the becoming of something... beginnings yet to start', Vaseghi said. Elaborating on this idea, the creative director added: 'like when you leave one stage, but then you haven’t arrived in the other one; that in-between period. It's a really key factor in my work. It's always been the inspiration that sits behind everything I do - the rite of passage.'

Costume by Morteza Vaseghi for 'Rite of Pass-Age'

Realising that it's not a binary concept but one that also speaks to universal principles, once Vaseghi set his sights on a storyline rooted in the transitional, it was hard to refute his own personal connection to the importance of transitory states, particularly in his own career as a creative. 'I kind of always found myself moving from one place to another', Vaseghi mused. 'The idea of being in between states has always been a very dominating thing in my head. At the same time, as much as it's a notion rooted in the personal, it is also universal... in some societies, it's considered that a person who leaves childhood and then goes out to claim something owns the 'rite of the passage' so it takes on a myriad of forms that all interlink'. We all relate to the method of thinking ‘if I fix this then it’ll all be okay' or ‘If I have just this one thing that happens, then it’ll all fall into place’, Vaseghi is the same. 'l'll set my mind on something and have tunnel vision until I get it', he revealed. 'I’ve realised that it doesn’t matter how many times you hit that target, there’s always going to be a next thing. it’s the same with anything: physical fitness, mental health, even a relationship with a loved one, everything has to be constant. You have to work on it. You can’t fix something, and then it’s done forever; it’s always a journey. There is no end or finish line to a career, not if you really, really want it, at least.'

Still from 'Rite of Pass-Age'

Our permanent state of being in transit is the one thing that essentially binds all humans together. Life is not about the arrival point, nor does it revolve around the beginning but the journey you embark on. Our final destination is constantly shifting, seldom fixed, and although this concept isn't new in art, the permanence of transience finds new ground to break through in Rite of Pass-Age; a film that sets its own boundaries in accordance with an ever-shifting journey.

Costume by Morteza Vaseghi for 'Rite of Pass-Age'
Rite of Pass-Age
Morteza Vaseghi


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