“I saw you scratch yourself during mass,” the Reverend Mother admonishes Sister Jude once morning prayers are complete, the daylight streaming through the stained-glass windows to illuminate her impropriety as though God himself were gazing down upon her in judgement. “I hope you understand how that looks to the priest and to your fellow sisters when you flash your thighs.”
Yet Jude cannot help herself, the itch beyond the rough wool of her habit against her virginal skin, a burning that cannot be ignored or quelled, expressing itself in her constant urge to abrade her skin, waking in her narrow bed in her bare room with welts on her arms from where she has gouged herself in the night, prayer unable to help her with that or the other itch she desires to scratch, one deeper and more sinful.
A short film written and directed by Susannah Farrugia, Itch encapsulates the unceasing irritation which afflicts Sister Jude (The Contract’s Loren O’Dair), cloistered alongside the pious perfection of Sister Agatha (The Musketeers’ Alexandra Dowling) and frowned upon by the Reverend Mother (The Bill’s Shenagh Govan), seeing all and forgiving nothing.
Finding little guidance as she makes her pitiful confession to Father Paul (Triangle’s Christopher Saul), she diligently applies herself to her duties, scrubbing tile floors and remaining chaste, but there is no rest or respite, haunted and driven, what she is told to ignore becoming an obsession which consumes her, the denial of her needs manifesting in other pathologies.
Shot in monochrome, Jude’s life and limited choices narrowed down to black and white while her lustful dreams are filtered hazily through glowing veils of grayscale, the cloisters she walks are a downward spiral, her mind unravelling along with her bandages, conditioned to believe she is ugly and unworthy, denied comfort or companionship.
The premise simple and the film slight, Itch running to only eight and a half minutes including titles, nevertheless it fills that time with image and tortured emotion, visions of agony and violation as Sister Jude seeks to open herself and purge that which torments her thoughts, what she seeks to supress but requires release inevitably finding outlet one way or another.
Itch will be available on the Arrow platform from Friday 2nd February