News from the Locarno Festival

Interview with Carla Juri

Piazza Grande – Paula

Foto di Alessio Pizzicannella



Carla Juri, after coming to Locarno in 2013 with the provocative Feuchtgebiete, you’re now back with a biopic in which you take on the complex role of Expressionist painter Paula Modersohn-Becker.

In reality, all roles are complex. Like human beings, each character is its own universe. For the character of Paula, changing era and context, I had to do historic, documentary research to understand what the social expectations were for a bourgeois woman living over a century ago. I wanted to understand the spirit of the times not just at a social level, but also in regards to the artistic and literary trends and influences. In order to better understand her motivations, I read the many letters that Paula wrote to her parents, her husband, her sisters and her dearest friends, words that reflect the innermost evolution of her mental states. Something that can also be perceived externally, in her artworks, which changed over time.

After all, the film does not recount just the story of an artist, but more generally the story of a woman fighting to realize her dreams in every field, challenging the taboos of a whole society.

At that time, women did not have the right to a real education, still less a university one, never mind in the artistic field. Painting lessons were seen as a hobby or a pastime for the amusement of bourgeois women, while only a man could represent “the artist”, “the intellect” or “culture”. At most, a woman could aspire to be a teacher, an acceptable role because it was connected to an idea of motherhood. And so an independent life was not only badly regarded but also almost impossible: only marriage could guarantee social and financial survival. All constrictions that Paula did not want to heed. She was an unconventional woman, without compromises.


And she risked not being accepted and understand, both on a human level as well as an artistic one.

At an artistic level her paintings were not understood, but most of all they were not taken seriously. A reappraisal came many years after her death. Speaking of the relationship with her husband – also a painter, though artistically anchored to more traditional and conservative positions – she said that the years with him were «the best and the worst» of her life. She was a victim of her times, but in the end so too was he. He admired her difference, her art, but unfortunately at the same time, intimidated, he pushed her away and forced Paula to remain a virgin for five years of marriage.


While with Paula we follow you on a journey into the past, we’re also ready for the future, next year, when we’ll see you again in the new Blade Runner 2

We’re right in the middle of production, so I can’t say much. But one of the most surprising things is that despite many years having passed, there’s a strong continuity with the people who made the first film in 1982. The scriptwriters, for example, are the same as back then, while Ridley Scott is still here, though as co-producer rather than director. It’s a bit like something that stays in the family, and that’s quite rare for such a big franchise. But even the book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick on which the first Blade Runner film was based is a novel that continues to stand the test of time. It reflects with black humour on a technology-driven future that in the end is not so far away from the present. 


Lorenzo Buccella

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