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Sonja Prosenc • Directora de Family Therapy

"Tememos que algo nos obligue a enfrentarnos a algo a lo que no queremos enfrentarnos"


- La directora y guionista eslovena habla sobre adaptar el diseño de producción a los personajes y sobre firmar una historia tan personal como política

Sonja Prosenc • Directora de Family Therapy

Este artículo está disponible en inglés.

Sonja Prosenc brings her third feature, Family Therapy [+lee también:
entrevista: Sonja Prosenc
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, a sizzling offbeat tragicomedy, to the Tribeca Film Festival’s International Narrative Competition.

Cineuropa: The film spotlights two types of outsiders who present a threat to the norm: we have the blood relative from a different background but also the migrants from a lower socioeconomic background. Could you elaborate on this theme of otherness and the connection between the two types of outsiders within the film?
Sonja Prosenc:
It's interesting that you noticed two types of otherness. Usually, when people watch it, the focus is on the young family that arrives in the middle of the night, but actually, the first person who disrupts this delicate balance in the family relationship is Julien, the son from one of Aleksander’s previous relationships. In Slovenia, after independence, the new economic system and the whole transition thing, we got this wealthy class, let's say, that we had not been used to before. That doesn't mean that before, we were not oblivious to other people around us. But now, it just became more obvious with people also physically isolating themselves, like our family that lives in this glass house.

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What they have actually built for themselves is a kind of vivarium, and they are really taking care not to let anybody in who could represent otherness, because this is always something they are afraid of. With this family, they think of themselves as progressive and open, and they have friends from all over the place. But when a person from a place nearby comes along and is different, especially in terms of social status, it’s like, “This is a completely different world. We don't want this world to touch us in any way.” So it's always about this fear that could disrupt the balance that I mentioned, but also, I didn't want the film to moralise. Julien actually physically opens the door for this other world to “invade” this isolated place that they have created for themselves. It’s always about fear. We are afraid that this will push us to confront something that we don't want to be confronted with. It could be something like personal fears, or something that is suppressed in us or in our relationships.

The mother, Olivia, has the most interesting relationships with outsiders.
The way we developed the character with Katarina Stegnar, the actress, is that we imagined this woman who comes from a well-off family. Somehow, she “sacrifices” herself for the family. The way she suppresses or inhibits everything that she feels as a woman throughout these years, it's like she somehow loses herself in this effort to keep up appearances and be overprotective towards the daughter, Agata. When life enters the house and their family, she somehow wakes up and becomes more active. We actually talked a lot about how this libido that we see in her is not just about sexuality; it's about her general attitude towards the world around her. It's not just about something happening with the other characters in a sexual way.

The music is a fascinating blend of different sonic elements, from a scoring that you say at the beginning of the film is inspired by Henry Purcell’s King Arthur opera to other diegetic music.
When we were preparing the film and shooting it, somehow, we always had this old Italian song, “Volare”, playing. I should mention that all of my films are shot in the region around the Slovenian-Italian border, which is bilingual. A big part of the movie was shot in Italy, so somehow we had “Volare” in our heads. When we started editing, it felt like we needed something Baroque. We found this opera, which had already been adapted for some films, but it’s a piece from the end of the 17th century. It gave us this tone that’s not at all sentimental. It carries this somehow comedic feeling, so we thought it was perfect. What our composers did was they took this opera and adapted it with a completely different theme. As the film goes on, the theme develops a little. At some points, it’s more imperfect and chaotic, and then at others, it’s more beautiful, in a way.

Do you have a relationship with animal symbolism, as a director? The film first features a rabbit, then a dog, and a deer that wanders in and around the home.
I wouldn't say I have a special relationship with animal symbolism. Although now that you mention it, in my first film, there was a goat, which was somehow like a trickster. We never see it; we just stay in frame and we play with the sound. Here, the rabbit is the first one. It's almost dead when Agata brings it home. So in a way, what Aleksander does is an act of mercy. Afterwards, we see Olivia cleaning up everything that could damage or leave a stain on this perfect image of an ideal family. Then the dog is the first sign of something that they perceive as a threat. We hear these shots and we don't know what it is. But really, it's just a cute dog. The deer brings nature into this house or symbolises the moment when the world of the family somehow fuses with the reality around them.

What was most important to you specifically about developing this style and tone of social satire?
The working title was Redemption, but that was just the way we thought about the characters and how we get to know them, in the beginning, through this social satire. As we get closer to them, it becomes more dramatic. We start to understand them. The layers peel away, and then we see what needs to happen for them to reach their small individual redemptions. What was important for me was that these redemptions would never be connected to another member of the family, but each had to achieve them on their own. Only then would they be able to have healthy family relationships.

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