The concept of a life converging and diverging has long occupied the minds of artists and filmmakers. The idea of a life potentially being different hinging on a seemingly innocuous decision can, and often is, highly engaging, largely because it is one that is so simple and relatable. At times, this concept can become trope-like, but when presented thoughtfully, as is in the case of Split, it can aid character development and narrative engagement.
Conceived as a web series consisting of ten 10-minute episodes, Split focuses on the life of Sammy (Yael Shavitt), and the parallel realities that develop after receiving a letter from a drama school detailing the results of her audition. Her reaction to this letter acts as the impetus for the depiction of her parallel lives: one, in which she is a successful actress, confident and often self-centered, and a second, in which she works as an assistant director, lacking in assertiveness. In both realities, Sam/Samantha is consistently engaging, and the narrative invariably moves between the two realities to highlight the difference in Sam/Samantha’s nature and manner created through her actions. The series is well-suited to the chosen format of short webisodes, allowing for character development without losing pacing (the series takes place over ten days).
Created and written by Yael Shavitt (who also stars as Sam/Samantha in adulthood), Split is a truly feminist work, intentionally created through a female-only team of four women filmmakers, resulting in an all-female on-set crew. In an industry that is still dominated by the patriarchy and the male voice, Shavitt and her team not only highlight the need for more female voices, but also the ability of these filmmakers and writers. Focusing on a female protagonist who deliberates over decisions that impacts upon her life, rather than worrying about the clichés normally associated with crucial life choices, is both progressive and refreshing. While we see Sam/Samantha in relationships in both realities, she is never defined by those relationships. Rather, we see her interact with her significant other in a personal manner which clearly indicates that Sam/Samantha is her own person with her own motivations and desires; she is not led by the wants and needs of those around her.
In addition to this female focus, Split also depicts several characters that identify as LGBTQ. These identities never feel unnaturally embedded, simply included to highlight diversity, rather these identities simply are, and in turn, are progressive, allowing the series to tell an intersectional story.
How the trajectory of Split continues remains to be seen, with only the pilot episode currently available on YouTube (the makers have recently finished successfully crowdfunding to raise the funds required for the rest of the project). Regardless, the very existence of a series like Split should be applauded. It is crucial that diverse female voices are heard in a male-dominated industry. Given the hyperreality perpetuated by the media, it is important that other voices, and different representations, are made available to viewers.
Siobhan Denton is a teacher and writer living in Wales, UK. She holds a BA in English and an MA in Film and Television Studies. She is especially interested in depictions of female desire and transitions from youth to adulthood. She tweets at @siobhan_denton and writes at The Blue and the Dim.