SANDRA WOLLNER: “MY FILM IS AN ANTI-PINOCCHIO: THE DESIRE TO NOT BE HUMAN”
“Not being born is without a doubt the best possible plan, but, unfortunately, it is not available to anyone.” These are words that the philosopher E.M. Cioran wrote in his book ‘The Trouble With Being Born’, a title that he shares with Sandra Wollner’s second feature film, which was translated in Spain as ‘Del inconveniente de having been born’. The Austrian filmmaker takes that idea of forced existence through a futuristic and ghostly story, where an android becomes the recipient of all human frustrations, desires and needs.
“I have always thought that it is more a film about a ghost than about an artificial intelligence machine,” the director tells FOTOGRAMAS during a meeting at the 2020 San Sebastian Festival, where the film was presented within the Zabaltegi-Tabakalera section . Wollner defines her new job as an “anti-Pinocchio”, where the android protagonist does not aim to become a real girl because there is “no conscious mind beyond what she is programmed to do”. With this premise, ‘Del inconvenience of having been born’ launches reflections that range from our close (and sometimes insane) relationship with technology to philosophical ideas about the soul and free will.
How do you get to this story?
My friend and co-writer Roderick Warich originally came up with the idea. At the time, I was going through some scripts looking for a story about a non-human container, not really knowing what I was looking for. And finally we developed this concept together and I realized that what interested me the most was this idea of the anti-Pinocchio: not to teach that narrative that we all know of how a robot wants to become a human, but something that is simply an object that others control.
You speak of Pinocchio as inspiration, although there are critics (like Carlos Loureda in FOTOGRAMAS) who have also pointed to Frankenstein …
I understand it, but the truth is that I have never seen the male protagonist of the film as the creator of the android, but of course you can see that reference and in a certain way I identify with it. Because, after all, the bottom line is the same: a projection of our desires, our lust, our anger … But for me, from the beginning, the idea was to make an anti-Pinocchio. We wanted to have this piece of wood without a soul. It does not go anywhere, a soul does not grow, a conscious mind does not develop beyond what it is programmed to do.
It is very different from your previous film, ‘The Impossible Picture’, but I have read that you consider it a kind of sequel. It’s true?
Yes, in a way. I didn’t plan for it to be some kind of continuation, but there are a lot of similar themes in that story and I only realized it while working on this movie. Again it is a story about ghosts and about memory. I always tried to see my previous movie, ‘The Impossible Picture’, through the idea of visualizing something as a memory. And a critic said something very nice, and very successful, which is that it gave the feeling that the film portrayed how it feels to be programmed. And I found it very correct, because that is precisely what I was thinking about all the time. I see very strong connections, especially in that debate about the difference between memory and programming, if there is any difference.
The visual style of the two films is very different. Are you exploring your style?
Yes, they are different, but there are also certain similarities. With ‘The Impossible Picture’ he went from a very documentary style towards a narrative, while in ‘Del inconveniente de haber Born’ it is basically that structure in reverse: you go from a narrative scenario to increasingly lose the sense of the narrative. But of course I am always experimenting with new formats. I think it wouldn’t make sense to just stick to one style or imaginary, or even one genre. I feel like it always depends on the characters and the story.
Each story demands its own style.
Exactly. And it’s more fun that way! You want to surprise yourself, you don’t want to be the same filmmaker all the time.
Do you think technology will be, or is it already, a container for human traumas, for their frustrations and desires?
I’m quite an optimistic person, you know. (Laughs) But of course, it’s just a mirror, what else can it be? It doesn’t bring out the best or worst in us at all. It is a container, but above all it is a reflection of our ideas, our concept of morality, our concept of love … A reflection of ourselves.