When Portland filmmaker Maria Allred was a teenager, she fled her family's home in Vancouver, Wash., to find herself.

"I left home and hitchhiked and lived in the woods a lot and was just living this really weird life for a year when I was 15 to 16," she says.

Allred eventually came home to finish high school. But the hunger that drove her soul-searching sojourn endured, and eventually provided the emotional fuel for her astounding feature debut, The Texture of Falling. Allred is the film's writer, producer, cinematographer and editor. It's a surreal voyage through Portland that captures one of the great formative experiences of Allred's life: the first time she fell in love.

Filmed at Portland landmarks like Mary's Club, The Texture of Falling chronicles the lives of Louisa (Julie Webb), a director who falls in love with a charming but callous pianist named Luke (Patrick Green), and Sylvia (Allred), a painter in a BDSM-heavy relationship with a married man (Benjamin Farmer).

In the pantheon of movies about the ecstasy and torment of being addicted to another human being, Allred's film is closer to Terrence Malik's fluid Days of Heaven than (500) Days of Summer—it prefers symbolic images to straightforward scenes. Louisa's eventual emergence from Luke's toxic influence, for instance, is evoked not through dialogue, but through a shot of her smiling confidently while the skyscrapers of Portland tower behind her, serving as a potent visual metaphor for her newfound internal strength.

Sylvia's story is largely symbolic as well. The scenes depicting her submission—including one that involves spanking and a Ferris wheel—aren't designed to be interpreted literally. Allred prefers to think of them as "a metaphor for the experience of losing control, of opening your heart and being so vulnerable."

Before Allred met the man who inspired The Texture of Falling—whose identity she prefers to keep a mystery—she was a self-described love skeptic. "I would break love down to chemicals and the procreative drive and the fact that we keep projecting all of our idealized fantasies onto the idealized other," she says.

The romance in question ruptured that perspective unequivocally. "I fell so hard, and probably for the wrong person, but the experience was absolutely transcendent and exquisite and mind-blowing," she says. "I was devastated when he ended it. I had to write it into a film. Otherwise, what would I do? Just sit around feeling pain all of the time?"

To capture the all-consuming love she had experienced, Allred used an unusual screenwriting process. She heavily scripted Louisa's storyline, but mostly improvised Sylvia's scenes.

The Texture of Falling also relied on Allred's adaptive directorial style. "You start to use the filmmaking process to start to inform the content of the film," she explains. The looseness of her approach resulted in a film filled with dizzying juxtapositions, like a scene in which a lonely Louisa wanders through Movie Madness to a shot of her biking through the rain while a car's headlights beam menacingly toward her back.

Even when Allred made peace with the end of the relationship, she found that the film forced her to hang onto it emotionally. "Over time, I was so over the whole thing and I was so ready to move on," she says. "I think holding onto the film also made me hold onto him. I had to keep the embers alive."

Allred's response is initially neutral when she is asked if she wants the former object of her affection to see The Texture of Falling. "It would be a nice cinematic twist if he showed up to Portland [for the premiere]," she says, before adding, "I got the catharsis. I don't need any more completion from him at all."

The Texture of Falling isn't really a requiem for a romance. It's a declaration from the grown-up verison of the 15-year-old who lived in the woods to solve the mystery of her own identity, who's now daring Portland directors to think bigger, grander and zanier—and who has achieved closure in the process.

"I put myself out there with my own personal experience," Allred says. "I expressed it all. I got it all out."

SEE IT: The Texture of Falling, with Maria Allred in attendance, screens at OMSI's Empirical Theater, 1945 SE Water Ave., thetextureoffalling.com. 7:30 pm Saturday, June 23. Various show times June 22-28. $10.