Moving into the Infinite
The film invites us on a mystical journey. We follow a woman who discovers her spiritual practice in dance. She travels across the globe, dancing in sacred as well as secular spaces. Meeting with people of different heritages, cultures and religions she discovers common ground in the heart.
‘Moving into the Infinite’ is a declaration of love
to that which is truly alive
in all cultures, religions and human hearts.
A semi-autobiographical essay film, ‘Moving into the Infinite’ follows a woman who discovers her spiritual practice in dance. Her unconventional calling — to dance for God — moves her to travel across the globe, to dance in holy as well as secular spaces, and celebrate with people of different religions and cultures, finding common ground in the heart.
Devadasi is one name for traditional temple dance in India and also the title for its practitioner. The story of this modern Devadasi — her projects and her journey — sheds light on the intention and nature of temple dance as a universal practice.
Whether Devadasis led celibate lives
or used sexuality for initiation purposes,
remains a mysterious topic.
Devadasi: Reclaiming the History
Devadasi (Sanskrit, female servant of God) has a complex, even contradictory background and set of associations. In its earliest designation, it referred to women who expressed their devotion through dance. Some say they led celibate lives, while others suggest sexuality was used for initiation purposes.
Devadasi originally described a Hindu religious practice in which girls were ‘married’ to a deity. The Devadasis took care of temples, were highly educated, practiced traditional music and dance, and enjoyed a high social status. Their practices formed the roots of several Indian classical dances.
Following the demise of the great Hindu kingdoms, the practice degenerated. Devadasis were now considered to be immoral. They were described as prostitutes since they engaged in sex outside of the Christian concept of marriage. Concurrently, with the Muslim invasion, women lost their independence and power.
Revivalists propagated the model of the ancient temple dancer as sacred and chaste women. Likening them to nuns, they stressed that the Devadasi’s dance was a form of Natya Yoga that enhanced an individual’s spiritual plane. Others claimed that a Devadasi was neither a prostitute nor a nun: ‘She was a professional artist who did not suppress or deny her feminine skills.’
The tradition of offering these girls to the temple exists to this day, but these Devadasi are mostly considered outcasts of society, imprisoned and enslaved within their enforced roles. Nevertheless, a respect for the name of Devadasi and what it once represented is still present within sectors of Hindu culture.
Today, one can hardly find Devadasis of the original lineage or intention. Moving to the Infinite follows the travels and encounters of a modern Devadasi, and seeks to shed light on the nobility, mystery and beauty of this ancient, misunderstood heritage.
‘Moving into the Infinite’ is an invitation
to break down borders and
to grow beyond one’s own horizon
The inspiration to make this film began a decade ago when I witnessed an elderly man in an Indian village. Despite the obvious decay of his physical body, he joyously stamped in circles around his walking stick in blissful and tender ecstasy, above his head the wide open sky. The wish to convey the rich experiences of my outer and inner journeys to a broader audience as well as to shed light on the topic of Devadasi, moved me to make this film.
Devadasi (Sanskrit, female servant of God) is a name for temple dance in India in its early inception as well as in certain religious traditions. The role of the Devadasi has been misunderstood and misinterpreted throughout history. Currently, Devadasi is often synonymous for prostitution. I feel compelled to help disabuse this misperception.
In our film, we witness a cosmopolitan temple dancer, her pure intention, her life and work, the heritage and spiritual dimension of her dance and its role in society. ‘Moving into the Infinite’ displays a contemporary expression of Devadasi, a dance practice which serves as a spiritual path beyond borders of tradition and confession.
For me, traveling to different countries, and experiencing different cultures and religions, is invigorating. Forming a connection with the varied traditions, rituals, symbols, images and stories, is like walking through spiritual doors and entering new chambers. I love the diversity of the different gardens, discovering the common essence that brings life to our heart by way of many paths.
Facing the unfamiliar can be frightening. I seek to go beyond the differences, beyond fear of touch, and to penetrate into that which is common. ‘Moving into the Infinite’ is an invitation to break down borders and to grow beyond one’s own horizon.
In the film, the story of a grandmother displays this beautifully. Having experienced utmost cruelty, she is able to overcome feelings of rage, hatred and revenge, inspiring her entire family to seek reconciliation and peace. Certain planned scenes developed differently than expected or even did not take place at all. Others unfolded in an unexpected way, more beautifully than we could have ever conjured by ourselves.
I spent nine days at Liane Berghammer’s Horse School in order to prepare a scene with her black shire horse and stud stallion, ‘Hawk Stone Tom.’ I learned enough that I could return courageously to the zesty-blooded Spaniard, ‘Altanero.’ My fantasy to ride on him through the summer landscape, galloping without saddle or any gear remained elusive. Instead, in the morning mists, we started to dance with each other!
As a professional modern dancer, I became author, director and producer of ‘Moving into the Infinite’ with the avid encouragement of my chief collaborator, cinematographer Eckart Reichl. Together as a team, we embarked on the adventure of producing our film. Shooting and editing were a fulfilling combination of my spontaneous, intuitive approach to film making and his knowledge and experience in film.
Each day was a creative play with the elements of planning, and chance, letting go and fresh navigation. The final project that emerged far outshone our calculating mind. The result is a film which transcends conventional forms, genre and style, and that defies easy categorization. Dream becomes reality and reality appears to be a dream.
My invitation to the viewer is to set aside expectations and to enter with an open heart. Allow the rational mind to relax and the fairytale-like imagery to induce a meditative mood for one’s own inner journey.
Impossible to categorize,
the film alternates between scenes of dramatic intensity,
probing interviews, and poetic magic.
Paramjyoti Carola Stieber – Director Bio
Born in Southern Germany, Paramjyoti Carola Stieber studied at the Ballet School of Karin Hermes-Sunke.
In 1998, she graduated from the Dance Academy AHK Hoogeschool voor de Kunsten in Amsterdam with a diploma in Modern Dance. In 2002, Paramjyoti founded her own school, focusing on movement, dance and awareness: ‘Devadasi – Dance of the Heart’.
Throughout the first years of her school’s existence, Paramjyoti has performed and taught in 20 different countries. Over this period, she has organised community-based and charitable programs, bringing people from different cultures and spiritual traditions together in music, dance and celebration.
Four years were spent on the creation, post-production and cinema tour of her film, ‘Moving into the Infinite’, a culmination of her lifelong devotion to dance, meditation, peace work, community-building, and spiritual practice.
Eckart Reichl – Cinematographer Bio
Eckart Reichl was born in 1968 in Dresden. In 1993, he founded a production company and since then has been working mainly in the documentary field for independent TV and cinema as a freelance cinematographer. Mr. Reichl has worked on a diverse range of projects with international scope. Since 1998, he has supervised film projects on academic faculties.
Selected Film Credits:
Verschleppt. Verkauft. Gequält. Gerettet. Directed and edited by Eckart Reichl, 2017, documentary, 62´
Vertreibung 1961 Directed by Peter Grimm, 2016, documentary, 51´
Umstürzende Neuerungen Directed by Barbara Böttger, 2015, documentary, 97´
Waldbrüder – Die Partisanen aus dem Īle – Bunker Directed by Peter Grimm, 2013, documentary, 82´
Die Nachtigall Directed by Karsten Gundermann, 2012, scenic opera film, 90´
Der Geist der Maya Directed by Harald Schluttig, 2012, documentary, 80´
portrait photo by Rani Goldwein
Dancer: Paramjyoti Carola Stieber
Storyteller: Patricia Chong
Dance Teacher: Karin Hermes-Sunke
Swordman: Hagen Seibert
Man Inside the Earth: Yaniv Pesso
Dancing Monk: Brother George
White Horse: Spanish Stallion Altanero
Black Horse: Shire Horse Stallion Hawk Stone Tom
Man with Dove: Saiid Gheisari
Photographer: Rani Goldwein
Dream becomes reality
and reality appears to be a dream
Voices of the audience
I thank you from the bottom of my heart for this deeply moving, intimate and touching film. It is a quiet, slow and gentle film – and that is also what makes it so powerful. The film reminds us how it feels to be human and asks us to live truthfully. With its loving details, it opens a wide space through which all nuances and all of what touches our soul tenderly, can be felt. All of what in our fast-paced everyday life, we often notice fleetingly only. That which seem hidden, yet, when perceived with the heart, is full of sensuality and natural eroticism.
Like a tapestry, that has been carefully woven from many colorful threads into a complete work of art, which reveals new worlds with every detail.
The film encourages us to listen patiently to the voice of our own heart, and to rediscover the natural way and spontaneity – what makes our existence so alive. Paramjyoti ´s work encourages us to say „yes” to who we are, to taste the joy that brings and to carry it out into the world. It encourages us to be vulnerable and to share this openness with other people. It helps us to remember what is truly essential and meaningful to ourselves and encourages us to trust in that.
I feel deeply imbued by the vitality and sensitivity from each of your movements. But above all, of this love, which glows through each of your Mudras and every tiny and hidden part of the body.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Paramjyoti, for this silent remembering that caused such big waves.
Photographer: Rani Goldwein
Title: Moving into the Infinite
German title: Im Spiegel Deines Angesichts
A documentary film essay
Available in German and English
(Subtitles: German and English)
Original spoken languages: German, English, Hebrew, Farsi, French, Spanish
Length: 122 min.
Aspect ratio: 1:1,78 (16:9)
Shooting format: Digital/Video HD
Sound format: Dolby 5.1, Stereo 2.0
Exhibition format: 2D DCP, DVD, VOD
Picture format: HD ColorShare
Country of production: Germany
A young woman, thrown from a state of innocence, sets out on a spiritual quest. She follows an inner longing and discovers her calling to dance for god. As she travels the world, she meets and dances with people from different cultures, traditions and religions, sharing with them the smallest house of god, the human heart.
‘Moving into the Infinite’, a semi-autobiographical dance film — parts documentary, film essay, and fairytale — was produced and directed by the dancer, Carola Stieber, alias Paramjyoti. Paramjyoti shares and communicates the fruits of her many journeys throughout the world, how she was captivated by dance and has developed her own practice.
Her narrative journey celebrates what is important in life — to be oneself, to find one’s true nature, and to connect with that which is unchanging: in short, moving into the infinite.
Impossible to categorize, the film alternates between scenes of dramatic intensity, probing interviews, and poetic magic at the hands of cinematographer, Eckart Reichl. Even without sound or plot, it is possible to immerse oneself within the kaleidoscope of aesthetic and rich images. ‘Moving into the Infinite’ is a declaration of love to that which is truly alive and inherent in all cultures, religions and human hearts.