BFI London Film Festival
By Anna Bielak | November 13, 2012
Director: Sally Potter
Writer: Sally Potter
Starring: Christina Hendricks, Elle Fanning, Annette Bening, Jodhi May, Alice Englert, Alessandro Nivola, Timothy Spall, Oliver Platt
I do not like anything about labeling films, especially if the labels are in any way connected with gender. However, the latest film directed by Sally Potter (Orlando, The Man Who Cried) forces me to double-cross my habits. If there is a film which may be called a girlish one — hysterical in a stereotypical feminine way; excessively poetic, subtle and erotic — Ginger & Rosa is that particular one.
On one hand, Potter’s film is a typical, and bit predictable, coming-of-age story. On the other hand, it is clear that these puberty struggles will not lead anybody to real adolescence. Potter does not portray particular teenagers, but a lost generation that lived in permanent fear; the same one that turned freedom — obtained during social revolts — into weapons of self destruction. Michel Houellebecq wrote that the sexual revolution destroyed family bonds and led to tragic isolation of individuals. Ginger (phenomenal Elle Fanning!) and Rosa’s (debuting New Zealand actress Alice Englert) lives perfectly corroborate the theory contained within the French novel The Elementary Particles. They were both born just after the Second World War ended, grew up among the rubble of the old world and cultivated hope that it may be built once again during their lifetimes. It seems that Ginger and Rosa got stuck in-between an old world that passed away and a new one that has not been born yet; therefore, they bear fruits that grew out of the seeds that their parents had sown. Want it or not, they just copy their lives.
Red-haired Ginger’s mother Natalie (Christina Hendricks) is an ex-painter, who slowly falls into depression and bitter numbness. Both mother and daughter have a specific melancholia in their pale, beautiful faces and hide wild sexuality in their eyes. It may not be tamed, only enslaved. Natalie, enclosed within the four walls at her own home, is slowly, emotionally dying; at the same time, Ginger starts waking up her own life, flourishing. Together with her best friend Rosa, Ginger tests various ways of living, only to choose the one her defiant father had chosen. Roland (Alessando Nivola) believes in full self-autonomy in mind and action; he does not regard the mainstream family model, which becomes very convenient when his daughter’s best friend becomes his obscure object of desire. The fine features of the Alice Englert’s face are definitely pieces of art; perceptible by touch, taste and scent.
While Ginger, terrified by the idea of the end of the world, turns herself into rebellious activist; teenage Rosa finds consolation in Roland’s arms. Yet, do the girls really differ from each other? Nope. They have both taken paths that have been beaten by previous generations. Ginger — a bit tomboyish in her outstretched sweaters — fights for abstract ideas just as her father does. In the meantime, feminine Rosa makes exactly the same mistakes her mother did. There is nothing but paranoia and lack of fulfillment at the end of the road; yet, there is nothing else to choose. The world just before the real revolution is amazingly stylish and alluring — just like the frames in Potter’s film; yet, its inner narration is nothing but scrappy, disordered monologue, that pays homage to an era when real maturation linked with crossing one’s own borders was not yet possible.