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Halina Reijn: "My obsessions: sexuality, power and gender"

Piazza Grande - Instinct

Halina Reijn: "My obsessions: sexuality, power and gender"

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It’s your first feature and you go strong and bold from the start, tell us about the origins of this film.

I saw a documentary on Dutch TV about the numerous relationships between prisoners and therapists. I was fascinated by this phenomenon; it was a great true story to talk about addiction. Why does a strong woman get involved in something that is so bad for her? I’ve been touring the world as a theatre actress playing these classical plays by Shakespeare and so these stories of sexuality, power and gender are my obsessions - I thought I could use this story to express myself.

The prison feels like a community center (on the inside), it’s only from the outside we understand it’s a prison.

It’s a real psychiatric prison, it’s the Dutch system that is both fascinating (it believes in rehabilitation and offers music, dance, theatre) and controversial. Once a prisoner enters the system he/she never knows when they can get out. There is no punishment, the government decides their fate. The therapist is like god in there, he/she decides the fate of the prisoner.

Your mise-en-scène is sharp – almost raw, quite clinical, tell us about this choice.

The story is complex: will the audience understand this woman falling for a serial rapist? It was important to be brutally honest, very raw, almost like performance art. The therapy scene is very theatrical for me: only a table and two chairs. Sexuality is all about projection, fantasy, so I wanted the objects to be reduced to the minimum, to allow such projection. It’s a female gaze on this man, he is her fantasy. It’s only about her own demons, she explores areas such as shame, taboo, and darkness.

It’s almost a “huis clos” as characters hardly ever go out - even the outside world is perceived from the windows - so we feel she is also a prisoner:

Yes, they are both prisoners, both guilty, both wounded animals so we decided it should be one space, like the theatre. As a filmmaker, I felt I should feel comfortable in one space, like in theatre, and wanted to lock both of them up. And the scene when they leave, it seems like the desert – a fantasy.

Mathilde Henrot
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