In Still Into You, love has no age limit
by Marta Bałaga
- In her upcoming documentary, writer-director Anu Kuivalainen proves there are many ways of living a good life after 70 – be it with someone else or alone
Slated to premiere locally at the beginning of August, ongoing pandemic be damned, Anu Kuivalainen’s new documentary Still Into You – produced by Marianne Mäkelä and currently in post-production – takes a closer look at love after 70, as experienced by a widow slowly coming to terms with the death of her husband, a gay couple, a woman dating a much younger man, a husband struggling with his wife’s debilitating illness, and finally, an actress, Ritva Oksanen, making no apologies for valuing her freedom.
“My own age and my own relationship were a starting point for this film,” the Lahti-born director explains to Cineuropa. A Jussi winner for 1994’s Christmas in the Distance, her most recent feature was 2017’s Into the Forest I Go. “I have been in a relationship for over 30 years, and we are both, of course, getting older. I wanted to know what lies ahead.” To get a better understanding, she initially interviewed over 20 elderly couples as well as people who have already lost their life partners. She also asked them about the most intimate aspects of their relationships. “We talked about sexuality, which I presumed would be difficult but actually wasn’t at all. I learnt that love and sexuality don’t just disappear with age, but they do evolve. This is what I wanted to show in my film,” she stresses. “I also learnt that there are people who feel it’s good to live by themselves, free from the responsibility of taking care of another person. The love that everyone needs can also come from friends or other close relationships – there are so many ways of living [what we perceive as] a ‘good life’. When one feels comfortable with oneself, that alone makes us happy.”
That is also why she decided to leave her protagonists’ families out of the picture. “Children always have difficulty understanding their parents – I don’t think that has changed over time. Being a grandparent is probably the most wonderful thing, but I don’t address that so much in this film. I intentionally left the children and grandchildren out, as I wanted to show the ageing people as themselves: as whole, loving, active human beings.” In order to gain their trust, Kuivalainen took her time, making sure that they wanted to let her into their lives in the first place. “I talk a lot with my characters, of course. I start with a couple of interviews off camera but with a good sound system, so that they can still be used in the film if needed,” she says, explaining her process. “Once people understand what it is that I am looking for, they want to share their inner thoughts and show what’s important. In this case, I wanted to know what happens to love when you get older. I had to ask them very intimate questions, but I also had to give something back. I get the trust only if I deserve it.”
Still, the decision concerning what to share was ultimately left to the people in front of the camera, as they negotiated their boundaries as the project progressed. “The male couple didn’t want to talk about sexuality; others felt it was an important part of their relationship and they felt happy to share it with the audience,” says Kuivalainen. “Of course, I am responsible for how they will be perceived, so above all, I tried to create images and scenes that respect them and their life. Nothing is as intimate as the possibility to follow people in their most vulnerable moments. I’m truly grateful that they allowed me to be a part of that.”
A Bonsaifilms production, with the company handling local distribution as well, Still Into You will premiere in Finland on 7 August. The movie was supported by the Finnish Film Foundation, and its international film festival distribution is by Raina Film Festival Distribution.
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