Dora or the Sexual Neuroses of Our Parents challenges the concept of "normality"
by Giorgia Del Don
- With her latest movie, Stina Werenfels invites us to dive into an atypical, simple and free world
Making its world premiere at the Solothurn Film Festival (Solothurn Award) and on show in the Panorama Special section of the Berlinale, Dora or the Sexual Neuroses of Our Parents [+see also:
interview: Stina Werenfels
film profile] by Swiss director Stina Werenfels has all the potential to establish itself on the international cinema stage.
After a long break (she made her debut in 2006 with Going Private, also screened at the Berlinale) Stina Werenfels returns with a unique movie that raises some uncomfortable issues forcing us to face up to the universal dilemma of “normality”.
Dora (a wonderful first part for newcomer Victoria Schulz) is 18-years-old, by now an adult or at least she should be. Yes, because really Dora is not exactly an ordinary girl. Whereas her mind and her perception of the world are that of a child her body on the other hand has never stopped developing. This seeming inadequacy, enhanced by a marked curiosity, frightens her parents who feel overwhelmed by this unfamiliar situation.
Their uncertainty is due to the fact that Dora has recently stopped taking her medication and this has completely unsettled her “tranquil” daily life. After years spent in a state of semi- wakefulness Dora seems to regain possession of her body. Starved of emotion and free from the prejudices that imprison so-called “normal people”, the star of Dora or the Sexual Neuroses of Our Parents launches herself into the discovery of the world and of her body to finally happen upon sexuality. Although this emerges in a brutal way, Dora doesn’t seem shaken; on the contrary her attachment to her unlikely lover continues to grow, to such an extent that it upsets her entire family nucleus. In fact while her mother tries desperately to have a second child, she’s the one who gets pregnant. An insult that despite an abundant dose of goodwill will destroy a family balance that was painstakingly created.
What makes Stina Werenfels’s latest film particularly interesting is her lack of dogmatism, her way of letting everyone express their sensitivity by creating a puzzle of perspectives that the audience will have to gather together. Although the behaviour of Dora’s lover, Peter (a surprising Lars Eidinger), is morally punishable, his unscrupulousness nonetheless allows Dora to enjoy emotions that she herself lays claim to and that she experiences without that feeling of abuse that stems from our perception of things. The subjective close-ups that illustrate Dora’s unique perception that magnifies details that are insignificant for us are particularly touching and reveal our limited vision of things.
Stina Werenfels’ adaptation of the play by Swiss playwright Lukas Bärfu encourages us to reconsider, at times in a brutal way, cross-cutting themes like jealousy and claiming our real self in a constant coming and going between emotions and reality, between what is allowed and what is not. Even if Dora’s parents experience more fear than neurosis, the sudden change in their daughter’s behaviour forces them to face up to their own conception of “normality” (that refers both to Dora’s life and to their own). As Peter said “we’re all disabled”, perhaps not physically or mentally like Dora but often we are sentimentally, imprisoned in a cage of unexpressed desires and needs that are ignored. This is what Dora shows us and what Stina forces us to reflect on.
Dora or the Sexual Neuroses of Our Parents is co-produced by Dschoint Ventsch Filmproduktion, Niko Film, Aleppo Films, Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen and Magmafilm GmbH and sold worldwide by Wide Management.
(Translated from Italian)