Anna Eriksson • Director of W
"I was looking for truthful pain"
by Marta Bałaga
- The Finnish artist follows her 2018 Marilyn Monroe dark dream M with W, continuing to disturb
In Anna Eriksson's W [+see also:
interview: Anna Eriksson
film profile], which just premiered out of competition in Locarno, Europe (Eriksson) is reeling. She is sick, suffering and cold, and even encounters with Chinese Man Machine (Parco Lee) won’t help anymore. As snow covers the ground, everyone prepares for a violent end, including a group of nurses gathered in a far-away institute, calmly repeating their cruel routines.
Cineuropa: What made you want to go into that dark place? For the most part, you just show this black void, with bodies coming in and out.
Anna Eriksson: During the whole process of making this film I was, in fact, in a dark place myself. I felt a sense of doom – then the pandemic started and this sensation intensified. I felt we were heading in a direction from which there was no going back. To be perfectly honest, I haven’t gotten rid of that sense just yet.
Europe is dying, and yet she hears: “The more I pity you, the more I want you.” I was wondering how political you think this story is?
Madame Europe, she wasn’t there from the very beginning. But I felt I needed to have a symbol for the state in which Europe is finding itself right now. I thought it would be interesting to represent it through a concrete character.
The relationship between her and Chinese Man Machine is definitely sadomasochistic: there is need and there is resentment. Do they hate each other or do they need each other? Or both? The physical part of filming was hard – it was minus 15 degrees outside when we filmed and I only had that metal suit on. It was painful, and then there were all these things I felt at the time. What I was looking for here was this truthful pain. One that would feel timely, like it’s happening right now, in this very moment.
There is pain and violence, sure, but there is also beauty in these scenes.
It’s hard to combine it, but it’s intriguing when it happens. The film’s aesthetic was very important to me. There is this feeling of longing here, it’s a goodbye of sorts or a dive into our history.
How to begin the film, that’s always the most difficult thing. I knew I would use the song We’ll Meet Again, I wanted to start with the darkness and snowfall. In Finland, the light is soft. It’s just not interesting, which is why I liked the light in M [+see also:
interview: Anna Eriksson
film profile] so much for example. We wanted to make it dark and then use the light of these places [including the Paimio Sanatorium designed by Aino and Alvar Aalto] and these characters to get this magical, weird feeling. When I thought about the nurses, I thought about them being stranded in the cold. They had to be pale like half-ghosts, stuck between being dead and alive. They are in a state of transformation from human into something that’s not human anymore.
Your characters make references to their gender sometimes. They say: “I am not a boy, don’t insult me” or that “a woman is at her most beautiful when she is dead.” Why were you interested in that?
What I refer to in these scenes has to do more with a perversion of power, which is present also in our daily lives. We are all perverts, in a way, so we have to check each other constantly to achieve some kind of balance. At this moment, in the world, it’s out of balance for sure.
Is it hard to convince performers to enter your world? Not just because of the disturbing content but because I would imagine you can’t really discuss these roles too much. The whole point is for them to stay ambiguous.
There needs to be a lot of trust. I know all these people involved very well and they are familiar with the dark sides of life. They are friends with them, they embrace them.
I didn’t have to explain too much to them. I just had to ask them to portray this world as well as they could. The problem these days is that people like to “brand” themselves, they want to portray themselves in a certain light – especially on social media. It’s hard to find collaborators who are trusting enough not to say they can’t do something because it’s not who they are. But I love this small group, all these passionate people. My husband [Matti Pyykkö] did the cinematography. This is exactly how I want to do it. I have no wish to make commercial films.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.