Paula Ďurinová • Director of Insides
“We want to be open with our protagonists and make sure their boundaries are respected throughout the process”
- The Slovak documentarian discusses her forthcoming feature debut, revolving around collective anxiety, utopian and safe spaces, and intimacy
Slovak visual artist, writer and documentary filmmaker Paula Ďurinová recently introduced her first feature-length project, Insides, at IFF Febiofest Bratislava Industry Days 2021 (see the report). Ďurinová co-founded the Living Documentary organisation, and has been producing and promoting short documentary films since 2010.
Cineuropa: You defined your feature debut as a creative documentary about collective anxiety, triggered by life in modern capitalism. Can you elaborate on this topic?
Paula Ďurinová: The idea for Insides has several inspirational backgrounds. One is my own personal experience with anxiety, burn-out and individual therapy. The other is my parallel interest in various support groups and contemporary philosophy. I realised that anxiety and stress are not solely an individual condition, but parts of a bigger problem influenced by life in a very fast-paced and performance-based society. This triggers anxious responses, and many of them are linked to instability, expectations surrounding achievements that are hard to fulfil, and self-inflicted pressure, often leading one to develop feelings of guilt.
The film builds on my own personal experience and, through the story of several people, brings to the forefront various grass-roots and artistic practices that have therapeutic and other, more radical potential. For the group scenes, we prepare exercises where we work with verbal, somatic, speculative or imaginary methods. Some are based on storytelling inspired by feminist consciousness-raising groups.
How did you pick the protagonists?
Inspired by existing support and therapeutic groups, we decided to cast a new group of people. We want to make sure that the group will function together while immersed in the emotional process of the film. One important key to this is that their life story and present situation should mirror the struggles that cause stress and anxiety. We have several protagonists from diverse backgrounds. They all are very strong, complex people – genuine, curious and also humorous. But to what extent is it a performance, and to what extent is it a survival mechanism? That is what I am interested in uncovering. The cast and crew are largely female.
You mentioned that you are going to use group-therapy methods, such as LARP. Will the film feature a social experiment in any sense?
The movie can be viewed as a social experiment, although it derives from research into support groups, functional safe spaces and consent. We want to be open with our protagonists and make sure their boundaries are respected throughout the process. We plan to work with Susan Ploetz, a somatic practitioner and LARP game designer. Role-plays are interesting tools if you want to get to know a person from a different perspective. In the given scenario of the game, they have their own agency in choosing and shaping the character, and explore new ways of relating to others and the imaginary surroundings. We will also collaborate with Czech artist Barbora Kleinhamplová, who often works with groups of people. With Barbora, we will connect platonic, physical contact between people with a study on feelings of collective anxiety. For each of these activities, in collaboration with the artists and set designers, we will create unique spaces, which will be distinctive in an artistic, visual and cinematic way.
Viera Čákanyová, the director of FREM [+see also:
interview: Viera Čakányová
film profile] and White on White [+see also:
film profile], boarded the project as a script consultant. How are you going to shape the story?
Discussions with Viera helped me make some crucial decisions and challenged me, encouraging me to examine some different approaches. Insides is set in two parallel realities: that of the generic city where the protagonists individually examine their lives and challenge themselves, and in certain utopian spaces – or emotional incubators – where they interact with each other. Scenes from their individual lives create a common ground for their understanding. In light of the current situation, we also discussed how the pandemic further challenges concepts of intimacy and anonymity, and enables us to be aware of our own body not only individually, but also as part of the collective body of our society.
Are you planning to work with any specific formal aspects with regard to the cinematography or set design?
One of the most significant forms of expression is the design of the safe spaces – the incubators. They are not explicitly indoors, but also in a forest or a natural site influenced by climate change. These spaces bring the group to their inner world, set a unique pace and enhance different emotions. Outside of these incubators, we move around a city – spots and situations that many of us will be familiar with. I am especially excited to work on these architectural elements of the city and the utopian spaces.
You have mentioned films such as Touch Me Not [+see also:
interview: Adina Pintilie
film profile] and Army of Love (an exhibition of moving-image and performance works developed by Alexa Karolinski and Ingo Niermann) and the works of Harun Farocki and Chris Marker as having inspired you. Will any of these inspirations have an impact on Insides?
Documentary film has the potential to overlap with various practices, and can function both in the cinema and in a gallery space. The political and essayistic films by Harun Farocki are a great inspiration not only in terms of this interconnection, but also in the way he observed and portrayed the behaviour of people and the surroundings that condition many of our actions. In Touch Me Not, I feel that Adina Pintilie is raising similar questions about relating to and filming intimacy, and she also draws on her personal experience. Projects such as Army of Love inspired me to discover the interdisciplinary potential of my film. Together with producer Matej Sotník, we are planning several works alongside the documentary feature: a book, a gallery installation, and a series of workshops and lectures. Matej has a background in film distribution and is familiar with innovative approaches. Our shared vision of this interdisciplinary approach for Insides is what makes us particularly excited about working together.
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