Slamdance Film Review: History of Love
History of Love
Slamdance Film Festival
Director: Sonja Prosenc
History of Love comes to us from Slovenian director Sonja Prosenc. This, her second film, is a record breaker in that it is the first joint Slovenian-Norwegian-Italian production. The movie stars Norwegian actor Kristoffer Joner and Slovenian actress Doroteja Nadrah as two strangers linked by the death of a loved one. History of Love is no romance, but is rather a long, slow reveal of the stark image of the confusion and pain left by death, and how absence—as much as relationships themselves—is also part of the narrative of love. Though the film contains little dialogue, lush, rich imagery tells a story that must be followed closely, one that is less acutely about the family and their grief but shows us what that feeling can be imagined as looking like.
The film begins with the sad profile of Ema, but the story is only about where this woman isn’t—she’s dead, and the film follows the members of her family, who are all searching for her, or figuring the parameters of the space she has left behind. There’s her daughter, Iva, a diver with a face as mysterious and composed as Mona Lisa’s, whose inner world we see via murky, underwater shots, where her pensive, calm face expresses ineffable things. Of the rest of the family left behind in the wake of the mother’s loss—a brother, a little sister and a very shaken father—it is Iva whom the film follows most closely, and her obsession with another man her mother left behind.
There is an unspeakable, moth-to-flame relationship that springs up between Iva and this man, a conductor of a local orchestra that Ema seems to have been part of. As Iva drifts further from reality and into her own private world, she also rotates around the conductor, stalking him as he stalks her. In their few moments of dialogue, they express their confusion and incredulousness about each other and to each other. It becomes clearer that their obsession lies in getting closer to the parts of Ema that were never theirs, even when she was alive. Iva rages halfheartedly at this man, the other man in her mother’s life, while the conductor, in one scene, picks ants tenderly from her resting body, fingers the fabric of Ema’s cardigan that Iva wears, which she had stolen back from his apartment.
Each character moves silently through bright, empty spaces that are as quiet as they are: The home of Ema’s family, her dressing room, the pools where Iva dives. There is a tension in these spaces—a feeling of bold potential rocking below every composed surface—which blooms later into the near-feverish, dreamy spaces they all rush through as they all cede control. Iva dives into a rushing river, abandoning her hearing aid to it, while her father builds a bonfire out of the brush in their backyard, burns it with his youngest daughter watching. History of Love is a visual exploration of what grief looks as it unwinds, and as it unwinds people. It mimics the mute sound of loss, the space it takes up, and shows the spiral of desperation as Iva, her family and her mother’s lover search for something to hold onto even as they realize that there’s nothing there. A fascinating film more than a moving one, it’s somehow soothing to see these feelings visualized so poetically, so minimally, so deftly. –Erin Moore
Jan. 30 // 3:30 PM // Ballroom