By Monica Delgado

Within the international competition of Oberhausen International Festival, I was able to watch two remarkable short films, which from their particularities ,address female characters in atypical situations, as constructions, that is, as imaginary designs of ideal prototypes , which are seen in the impossibility of a “must be”: the fiction Ieva, by filmmakers Vytautas Plukas and Domas Petronis, and the documentary Memories (Minnen) by Kristin Johannessen.

In Ieva, the duo of directors explore the margins of science fiction in a territory that could be seen as hackneyed: artificial intelligence that makes its way as consciousness. The film has echoes of several similar works where a robot or android becomes aware of the world but as a Christian passion. As in A.I. Artificial intelligence from Spielberg or The Trouble with Being Born, by Austrian Sandra Wollner, these characters assume their humanity with a melancholic and irremediable burden, which seems more than anything like existential nausea, a void in the face of a morally degraded society. Some of that appears in Ieva, this time from the corporeality of an android that seems to trace in the confines of her connections and chips a universe of emotions inherited from some sophisticated software. The first scenes place us inside a laboratory, where the robots are tested and trained to fulfill a later role, either as part of a shop window in a shopping center, or inside a home to carry out domestic activities.

Ieva, which seems to be a name, describes the birth of this robot and which is depicted by the filmmakers from an animation that materializes this expectation, like a psyche waiting for light, a thought or an emotion. A black screen that little by little is showing optical illusions that are configuring faces, of an animal nature. Then, as if returning to reality, the laboratory appears as an aseptic rehearsal place, where a definitive scene takes place:  the robot, which examines its surroundings in detail, is sensitively stimulated by contact with a pet, which awakens its human side. and finite. This appearance of the human does not need interrelations, role models or humanoid referents, but rather any vital glimpse that breaks the cybernetic order. This decisive moment in the logic of the film is extended in its surprise and delicacy until the end, in the exploration of this artifice character and his possible connection with his constructed human side, designed with a mercantile purpose, but which is spoiled by a natural force, which cannot be controlled and that escapes the most elaborate science.

In Minnen (Memories), the Swedish artist and filmmaker Kristin Johannessen keeps a therapeutic-type film diary, as she exposes the traumas and struggles of her own illness over time. Throughout fourteen minutes, and from the collage or playful montage, which includes cell phone videos, animations or photographs, the filmmaker shows the consequences of her paranoia and OCD, and how this disease affected her family and amical relationships. But rather than a drama, the film is a way of recomposing, as the title says, the various memories in periods of crisis.

The particularity of this short by Johannessen is in the use of archive material to confront a state of mind from the past. Based on interviews with her own parents, the filmmaker exhumed discomforts and resignations, about what it is to live with a person who has agoraphobia, or who stops leading a normal life to lock herself in a room for years. Thus, the images work in some way as an act of healing, or a reflection of that healing process, since the cloistered and pain become part of another language, where these domestic or intimate scenes go out to an “outside “.

This internal process of confinement that Johannessen describes in a playful and at times comical way, as a thing of the past, will be revived from the feelings of the parents, who seem to have performed an accompanying role from a spectator role and who now have, finally, the opportunity to reveal what they lived “behind the scenes”, and that is barely perceived in the videos that the filmmaker recovers.

The filmmaker’s gaze is also different, since in this present she responds both to an act of self-improvement and of affirmation, and the film illustrates very well this transformation towards creative freedom, as a new opportunity or rite of survival.

International competition

Directors: Vytautas Plukas, Domas Petronis
Script: Vytautas Plukas
Photography: Vytautas Plukas
Publisher: Vytautas Plukas
Lithuania, 2021, 14 min

Minnen | Memories
Direction, script, editing, music: Kristin Johannessen
Sweden, 2021, 14 min