For the prestigious British magazine Sight and Sound, and although the awards season has not done it justice, 'The Souvenir' was the best movie of 2019. And if something matches all the praises the new movie has received from Joanna Hogg, who won the Grand Jury Prize in the last edition of the Sundance Festival, it is in that its history runs as naturally as life itself. That has a soul. For something the director has become one of the most interesting author voices of our time, and one of the most fascinating thanks to an original method of creation based on improvisation that, in its latest production, joins an exorcisation of its own demons of youth.
Debut in the cinema of Honor Swinton-Byrnedaughter of Tilda Swinton (who plays her mother in fiction), 'The Souvenir' introduces us to young Julie, luck of alter ego of Hogg, an aspiring filmmaker who tries to find her voice and who suddenly sees her life altered by a love affair with a man older than her that hides behind its hypnotic charisma a multitude of problems and addictions. Based on his own memories, especially in a real relationship he had when he was barely twenty years old, history combines the personal and the professional, the reflections on the toxicity of dependent love and the difficulties in building his own path as an artist. Talking to the director, we understand that all these ideas that come from both her words and her silences are a consequence of a story that breathes on its own more than something written in a script. His memories come alive in another context, in the mouth of other people, crossing the boundaries of the real and represented in a story full of soul.
The film is unlikely to be released in commercial movie theaters in our country, but this Friday the Cine Doré in Madrid gives the opportunity to see it on big screen On the occasion of this essential event, we published the conversation we had with Joanna Hogg in the framework of the last edition of the Seville Festival, which dedicated a retrospective in which 'The Souvenir' was included. The director tells us how he moved his personal experiences to fiction, how he ordered to rebuild his old flat to create a more real immersion in his memories and also about his curious method of working with actors and actresses.
Why did you decide to start from this personal experience?
I have written movies before from my personal experiences, but this is the first time I have looked back, that I have reflected on my past. A few years ago, thinking about what project I wanted to do, I realized that I had this story in my head for too long, and it seemed like a good time to carry it out, to explore my beginnings as a filmmaker. I was interested in focusing so much on the story of a young director who is looking for her own voice as well as the love relationship in which she is involved. In my previous film, 'Exhibition', I also treated this balance between life and work in a certain way, it is something that has always interested me. Here he is back in the center, but from another time.
Have you ever said that you tried to make this movie in the late 80's and you couldn't. Are you glad you waited 30 years?
It is true! But I don't think I would have had any perspective on this story back then. I don't even think I could have carried it forward.
It would have been a very different movie, right?
Has it given you the opportunity to reflect on those beginnings?
I'm still reflecting on it, in fact. I was clear that I wanted to introduce Julie as a very compassionate person and very open to different people, who has to deal with how to articulate what she wants to tell. But what happens to him is that he knows a man, perhaps at the worst possible time, who questions what she is doing. At the beginning of the film he has a very clear idea of what he wants to do, of the type of social cinema he wants to develop. A very particular type of cinema, very European. But he loses all that trust because of the relationship. Sometimes I wonder if, had I not met that man, I would have finished that project that I was so passionate about Sunderland. It would have been an interesting start in my career as a filmmaker.
Was it your intention to speak from the personal of toxic relationships?
It's an interesting perspective, because now we talk about these toxic relationships, but while preparing the script I didn't think that way at all. It was more about a personal experience I had, I hadn't made that judgment myself, about whether or not it was a toxic relationship. I don't even think I saw it that way! But people started responding to the movie like that and it was quite shocking to hear it, because they were questioning the relationship in which I was involved. No, that was not my intention when making the movie. The motivation was always to show the journey of a young woman to become a film director.
Have these reactions changed your perspective on that relationship in any way?
I am not sure, because I am still immersed in the second film, which for me is an inseparable part of the first, so I have not yet left the project to be able to reflect on it with a better perspective or cold mind.