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There’s nothing new about the complexities of dating and sexual politics. One thing that is changing is the empowerment and encouragement of women to speak up about circumstances that all too many of them have endured in terms of unwanted advances. Candlelight Production’s film Watermark exhibits a woman struggling to overcome abuse in her past in hopes of freeing herself psychologically and emotionally from the trauma she experienced. Far from a revenge story, Watermark is as much a psychological thriller as it is a tale of personal victory. While the protagonist Meg has experienced a situation that no one should, the tale of her struggle to seize control of herself and her past is meant to convey hope for anyone in similar circumstances.

Meg is a young woman in her twenties with her whole life ahead of her; a life held back by her past experiences. Though she has moved in with her boyfriend Michael, the relationship is stunted because of her ex-boyfriend Parker. She dated Parker in college and when he pressed her to take the relationship to the next level, Meg severed ties with him. Frighteningly, Parker stalked and raped Meg. Traumatized by this violent betrayal, she constructs a personal reality called “The Void” to cope with her feelings. Compartmentalizing her feelings, Meg attempts to lead a “normal” life during the day but as soon as she goes to sleep she enters the void, where she is haunted by Parker. Fearing sleep and unable to maintain her relationship with Michael, Meg eventually confronts Parker in The Void.

Watermark creatively conveys the ceaseless anguish that permeates Meg’s entire existence. There is no solace to be found in Michael. Even though he loves her, the unspoken truth is that Meg cannot move forward with him until she finds the means to place Parker and his actions behind her. While common sense would tell us that Parker isn’t actually there, looking over Michael’s shoulder or walking around the bed while Meg and her present day boyfriend are becoming amorous, we understand the state of her Meg’s mind as he is omni-present.

In a number of ways, Watermark depicts what we can guess the experience of Meg is like for those who have shared similar circumstances. Michael is loving and supportive but essentially powerless. Meg is brave but only finds release when she takes possession of her own strength. Parker is a mystery, not solely because of his inexcusable actions but due to the way he is presented in the film. Constantin Cascante delivers a powerful and riveting performance as Parker, maximizing on the character’s ambiguity. While the obvious decision is to play Parker as the embodiment of his actions, Cascante presents him as a wounded man who embraces the violent side of himself. The actor’s ability to hint at a flawed and frightened individual who strikes out does not make Parker endearing but adds many layers to the view of the events and immensely affects the film’s tone. While clearly professing how unconscionable he finds Parker’s actions, Cascante concedes that the role was a learning challenge for him that allowed him to grow. He relates, “I think everybody has a reason for their behavior, even if it is a bad or terrible one. There will always be a reason after all, even for a guy like Parker. I believe that pain can make you do a lot of things you would normally never consider doing. It’s never revealed in the film what happened to Parker after he raped Meg; that allowed me a lot of leeway in presenting him. In particular, a rape scene is very difficult and emotionally draining when filming. Communication in scenes like this is one of the most important things for two actors to work together, you have to talk about boundaries and emotions in order for you both to be as comfortable as humanly possible in a scene like that.”

Watermark has received great praise from the film community for both its message and the intensity of the actor’s performances. Films such as this are often as inspiring as they are a means of entertainment and discovery. Meg, Parker, and Michael show us who we want to be, who we don’t want to be, and who we can be.

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