How I Translated My Emotions into a Meta Layer in My Movie

Musician turned filmmaker Mogli pulls back the curtain on the evocative companion film to her new album, Ravage.

Before I start, here’s a quick summary of my newest project, Ravage, and how it came to be. At first, it was an album – one that I wrote during a very rough period of my life. Leaving a toxic relationship, battling depression and later burn-out, I went into the studio to reflect and ultimately to heal. When the album was mastered and I listened back to it, I realized something far bigger had happened. I had stepped into my power, I had found myself through being brave enough to make myself vulnerable and had ended up in a place of happiness. After this realization, I longed for more outlets to tell my story, because I didn’t want it to be just my story. I wanted to inspire other people to step into their power too, so I made a movie or, as I call it, a cinematic album. It’s 60 minutes long and the main sonic component is the album, so there is no dialogue. All communication is done through facial expressions and movement.

In this essay, I’m gonna dive into the meta layer of Ravage – something I’m so excited to talk about for the first time, because there are so many sweet metaphorical details. I will also give you a brief rundown of the story, in case you haven’t seen the movie yet. (You should! ;)) The story and the meta layer are intertwined and words don’t ever do the project justice.

The story begins in the dystopian city of Neutra. In this society, emotions are forbidden and all nature is said to be poisonous. Neutra forces everyone to stay in line through propaganda, intimidation and violence. Their line of argumentation is: feelings –> trouble –> violence –> war; their claim: “Stay neutral, don’t be a ravager.” There is constant surveillance and the only thing the regime can’t directly control – the human mind – it controls anyway through propaganda. There is no room for resistance or escape. Neutra imprisons people, but acts as if it’s protecting them by sheltering from the allegedly poisonous natural world that awaits on the other side of the river that circles the city.

When I wrote the album, it was an intuitive reflection process. I turned my personal story into songs. When I set out to write the movie, I didn’t use the album as an inspiration. Instead, I used the themes behind it in an abstract way. In the first song, “Echo,” I sing about a toxic relationship I was in.

So Neutra is a metaphor for being stuck. In a job, a city or, in my case, a relationship with a narcissist.

Obviously, because both the music and the movie are expressions of the same emotions, they fit together. One line in “Echo” is, “A cage from the inside feels safer than the sky.”

At the same time, Neutra is a metaphor for my own coping mechanisms. When I’m scared, I tend to suppress my feelings – fear paralyzes.

The main character is trying to fit in, but is having a hard time controlling her emotions. Her work is to find and erase any plant that finds its way into the city. This is how she first comes in contact with nature. Through a tiny bit of weed that symbolizes the natural world. She realizes that plants are not toxic, but actually have a calming effect on her. Having uncovered one of Neutra’s lies, there is no way back for her. She falls out of line, gets caught for showing emotion and thrown into a Recovery Center like all Ravagers.

The Recovery Center is not just a prison made for torture. The medics believe in their methods to “heal.” They try to rehabilitate the Ravagers by exorcising their emotions and by giving them tools like breathwork to repress their emotion. After 30 days, a jury decides: If the program was successful, the Ravagers go back to normal society; if not, they get executed by being thrown into a dark hole. The executions very clearly show that a Ravager (a sensitive person with emotion) has no place in Neutra. While in prison, the main character sees a golden light in the forest on the other side of the river. It represents hope and the natural world calling for her.

The whole episode in the Recovery Center is a metaphor for the battle of raging fears one has when deciding to change their life. Are you more scared of the unknown ahead or the past that you already know doesn’t make you happy?

When it’s time to meet the jury, the main character gets acquitted but realizes she can’t go back. Following an impulse, she jumps into the dark hole and lands in water.

Water is a metaphor for flow. (Neutra had water filters everywhere to filter out the flow of their society.) Waking up on the other side of the river, she lands in the natural world. Here, everything makes sense. Energy flows, emotions are free. Physical laws are lifted and there are no rules. Nature reacts to its residents and is, so to speak, a character itself.

Now we reach the most important part of the meta layer for me. Every main character portrays an emotion or a trait. They represent my own emotions/traits and accordingly, the emotions/traits of everyone who identifies with the story.

I believe that it is rewarding to be brave. Brave enough to make yourself vulnerable –> express your emotions –> realize your fears –> confront your fears –> accept your emotions and join your traits in one organism.

The main characters are scattered in different locations and all start out in a fearful state of being. Throughout the story, they all face a challenge that is a metaphor for the depression that arises once you start to open up. Every challenge can be overcome when they are brave. Every moment where there is fear leads to a change for the worse.

I defined the fearful and the brave states to make sure to give the actors a clear understanding of my intention.

destroys – love – understands
holds on – insecurity – takes a risk
violent – rage – liberated
hurt – melancholy – content
obsessive – mirth – free

In the storyline, the main character meets them one after the other and they form a pack. She unites opposing gangs of people to redirect their anger toward Neutra instead. In the meta layer, however, with every challenge a trait gets added to a collective until it is a healthy and balanced organism.

The main character (portrayed by me) has a double role: Bravery/Fear. This has an effect on the other characters. Whenever she meets them scared or brave, they react accordingly. This, for me, is a metaphor for the immense effect it has on other people if someone steps into their power. By doing so, we can actually change the world, because if you shine your light, it resonates.

The gangs of people that were built on similar preferences and ethics also portray an emotion.

There is Pride, who democratically chose Love as their queen. As she loves to destroy, they have formed a cult around fighting. They are not just brutal, but sensual as well.

And there is Pleasure, who assembled around Mirth. They love and celebrate life and ignore its sincere sides. They love to take wild berries (a metaphor for drugs) and rave to suppress trauma and flee into a parallel world. Nature reacts to their trips, so they feel connected to her.

Now, as an artist, I don’t want to explain my art, which is why I’m gonna stop here. I gave you the key to understand what I created, now it’s on you to watch and feel it unfold. Focus on the challenges, the moments when the characters turn brave, because they inspire growth.

Focus on what bravery and fear does to them: watch how the magic unfolds from a hurt melancholy that becomes content to love and then ultimately understands.

See what they do to each other, too. Of course, Insecurity and Melancholy looove the worry-free world of Mirth. But every organism needs balance. Too much of Mirth, and boom, Love vanishes the morning after the rave …

And, most importantly, let them ravage your world with love.

Multi-talented singer, songwriter, filmmaker, sustainability advocate and one-woman tour de force Mogli has released Ravage, her gorgeous, ethereal indie-pop album, plus an epic companion film of the same name that shares a cathartic journey of self-discovery and healing, featuring 10 songs from Ravage, metaphorical dance, breathtaking cinematography, and a narrative that charts a dystopian to utopian transformation. An advocate for sustainability, Mogli recently created her second sustainable capsule clothing line – the Conscious Capsule Collection – with ABOUT YOU (one of the largest fashion and lifestyle platforms in Europe), inspired by the seven emotions portrayed in Ravage. Mogli also recently teamed up with Tommy Hilfiger to host a free online course exploring sustainable living. She incorporates sustainability into all of her creative endeavors (like her Netflix film, Expedition Happiness, which documented the making of her debut album, Wanderer, and saw her travel North America in a sustainably converted school bus. (Photo by Giulia Daley.)