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GOCRITIC!

GoCritic! Interview: Sonja Prosenc

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- In our first interview, Marija Jeremić talks to Sonja Prosenc about her film History of Love, which screens in Karlovy Vary Competition

GoCritic! Interview: Sonja Prosenc

A straightforward, image-based symbolism is the driving force of History of Love [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Sonja Prosenc
film profile
]
, Slovenian writer-director Sonja Prosenc’s second feature following The Tree [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
(2014). The film, a Slovenian-Italian-Norwegian co-production, functions on two levels: it is an abstract, deeply symbolic piece of art on the one hand and a simple story about teenager Iva (Doroteja Nadrah) forming a bond with her deceased mother’s lover (Norway’s Kristoffer Joner) on the other.

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Prosenc, presenting the world premiere of her film in the main competition at the 53rd Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, spoke to us about the process behind and the meaning of the film’s symbolic nature.

Why did you decide to make Iva’s mother’s lover a foreigner living in Slovenia?
The reason for this was my wish for the two of them, Iva, the protagonist, and her mother’s lover, Eric, to have as little in common as possible. All that connects them is their mutual loss of a loved one. In other words, Iva has no collective history with this man, they have not met before. There was another reason for this, however, one that is perhaps not as important to me personally but is much more tangible: many music conductors in Slovenia are of foreign descent. Anyhow, it seems to me that this was necessary because it helped Iva to take a step back from her prejudice, to which we are all inclined, of course. In that sense, the film is very inclusive because it introduces several very different perspectives.

How did some of the exceptionally symbolic moments in the film come about? A butterfly flying off the shoulder of a waking boy, for instance...
The fact that animals play such an important role is due to me wanting nature in the film tophysicallyinfluence the characters. In a way, nature devours them. Animals seemed like an appropriate approach. As for the butterfly, to me they are particularly interesting because they symbolise death. They stir up some pleasant emotions as well because they are so visually appealing, but their main function was to represent Thanatos.

This is just a detail however, it is not that important for the whole. The rest of the animals are tightly connected with the earth. We did the same with the sound, especially in connection with the sequences with Iva and Eric. We do not hear birds because everything is connected to the ground and the water. But when it comes to Gregor, Iva’s brother, we can see the element of air and the butterflies connected with it and we can hear the birds. To put it differently, something is opening up inside of him.

How did you establish the delicate relationship between Eros and Thanatos?
It is usually necessarily interconnected, isn’t it? Someone has asked me once if I identify with the main character, and I think this will nicely answer your question as well. I used to be a swimmer and I was also touched by water. It may sound a little funny but when you spend so much time in one element, water in this case, you are completely isolated from your surroundings, you are on your own and all you can do is think. Therefore, it is not about me identifying with a certain character in the story, not in the least. I do not expect this from the viewer either ‒ it is just not the sort of film that would enable the viewer to identify with anyone, really. However, it is true that I as the maker of the film do identify with the sensibility of the entire cinematic body. It is within this type of identification that I was able to reconcile the two aspects, Eros and Thanatos. It would not have been possible if I had focused on individual parts.

For the second third of the film, one might interpret that Iva is dead, and that everything is actually happening in a parallel universe.
I leave the interpretation to every viewer individually. Mitja Ličen, the director of photography, and I decided to visually create this alternative, in-between world, starting with the use of lighting in the film and the subtle boundary between day and night. At the beginning of the film we hear this exhale, and at the end of the film we witness an inhale.

At the end, they all finally start to grieve properly, freely and are truly connected as a family. Everything that happens between the two breaths is this in-between state of nostalgia, which is exactly why I wanted the structure of the film to reflect its non-linear fluidity. As I have mentioned once before, there are no jumps from the past to the present and from the present to the past because the film naturally flows as it is, between thoughts and memories.

*Marija Jeremić's participation in GoCritic! is co-financed by Film Centre Serbia

This article was written as part of GoCritic! training programme.

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