IFFR 2023 Big Screen Competition
Selma Vilhunen • Director of Four Little Adults
“I have found in the concept of polyamory the strongest form of love”
- The Finnish director talks about her film, a comedy that tells the story of four individuals and their sentimental experiments
We chatted with Finnish director Selma Vilhunen, whose film Four Little Adults [+see also:
interview: Selma Vilhunen
film profile] has taken part in the Big Screen Competition at the International Film Festival Rotterdam and won the Dragon Award for Best Acting at the 2023 Göteborg Film Festival for Alma Pöysti's interpretation as one of the main characters, Juulia. The movie is a comedy that tells the story of four individuals and their sentimental experiments.
Cineuropa: Let’s start from the genesis of this project. Were you inspired by one of the many books written about polyamory? Or were you more willing to reflect a particular aspect of Finnish society?
Selma Vilhunen: It all started with a strong urge to write about a very relevant topic, something that would address what’s going on in the world. After having discarded some ideas I realised that I have always wanted to write about love and I had to give myself permission to do it. After I granted myself permission, it all felt very relevant and I realised that not only did I want to write about love, but specifically about something I would call "giant" love. I have found in the concept of polyamory the strongest form of love and I find very beautiful the idea of working with yourself to allow a lot of freedom to your loved one. I also think of polyamory as a metaphor for people sharing the world and coming together to build something new, even when people’s needs contradict. I also wanted to direct this movie to investigate and exorcise my own fear of abandonment.
Can you talk about the choice of the main characters? My personal view is that you choose a pastor and an MP to show the contradictions between their private life and their public role.
That was definitely one of the reasons. It was a very useful dramatic tool to have two characters professionally invested in the public life of their community. I wanted them to work in a position of power, two people who have a voice and have a strong presence in society. The fact that Matias is a priest comes from my wish to include in the story something that is transient and spiritual. In a way, I wanted to include the perspective of God in the story, with the characters seen as these little ants on the ground of the earth under His gaze from above.
I guess this is the meaning of the word “little” in the title. I was also interested in the choice of the characters having kids and facing the practical problems connected to them. Is there any debate in Finland on how to change family laws in order to adapt them to a changing society?
New reforms to Finland's family leave allowances entered into force in the autumn of 2022. The updated law allows parents more flexibility about the division of childcare responsibilities, and no longer separates between maternity and paternity leave. The law allows parents to choose who takes leave, but there is a quota of days earmarked to each parent. Out of this quota a number of days can be transferred to the other parent or even to just any other caregiver, in a variety of new options. So when it comes to caring for babies, Finland is quite progressive. However, according to studies, mothers still end up doing more housework and child caring work than fathers, even though the new law is a step towards a more equal system.
There are definitely more discussions about other types of relationships and other ways to be a family than the nuclear family, but I think it’s still a long way towards a welfare system which would cater for all types of families in all aspects of child care.
I don’t think that monogamy is necessarily bad, I am monogamous myself but I think we can learn a great deal from the polyamorous community. Especially in the way that it makes us question certain ideas such as owning another person’s time or feelings. With regards to practical problems and logistics, I think there are the same problems in a monogamous relationship, especially if there are kids involved. We always face these questions on how to use our own time and be divided between different people’s needs.
Speaking of form, I found very interesting the fact that these stories, which are very far from tradition, are narrated in a very classical way.
I wasn’t necessarily aiming to be classical but I didn’t want any formal device to distract the audience from the story and the ideas that I am trying to convey. I wanted to communicate in the clearest way possible, without using tricks or very sophisticated camera movements, in order to give space to the characters and let the spectators feel as if they are living with them during the film. It has been interesting to see the reactions of the audience in Rotterdam and Göteborg, as the public in the theatre laughed more than I expected, making me realise that the film is actually funnier than I thought!
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