What do you see when you look in the mirror?
Sometimes when I look at myself I almost get a surreal feeling, as if it’s somebody else, but still someone I recognize. Isn’t it strange that your eyes can see everything except themselves? I don’t judge myself as much anymore in the way I did when I was younger. I could be very hard on myself and never think that I was good enough, or see any beauty in myself. I think the eyes reveal so much, not only what they look like but also what they see and where they look. I remember when I was a child observing my mother before the mirror, how I could feel her judgement over herself.
How do you feel about getting older?
I feel OK with getting older, only there is still so much I want to do and the older I become the more aware I am that time is limited. It’s so easy to long for youth, yet I wouldn’t like to be 20 again. I think what’s most important is not to turn bitter, to grow old with dignity and to accept the changes. I read about a woman who was afraid of getting wrinkles so she decided never to smile. But the lines in your face reveal what kind of life you lived. There is nothing more beautiful than a face that is full of life, and I believe that the strive for perfectionism, or for being beautiful will only have the opposite effect.
My mother says in the film that she was afraid of aging, that she thought that after 40 life was over. She was, and still is, beautiful but when she was young her beauty was also something she could hide behind. She lived in a myth, took different names for each new man she met. When she met my father and they got married she had to reveal her real name. She had called herself Melinda, from a song by Bob Dylan. Some people become younger the older the get, in their minds. My Dutch grandmother, Bep, with her thick, curly white hair, was much more strict and conservative when she was young. When she was over 90, she made her debut as an actress in a Chekhov play. She was playful and curious, and became freer and freer in her mind the older she got. More and more beautiful, too, I believe. I feel in many ways all the more connected with the child within me the older I get. And then it’s easy to say that age is just a number. It is, yet it’s also a hard fact. I remember when I listened to Agnes Varda giving a lecture in Gothenburg, how fascinated I was just looking at her face and how it was shifting from a little girl to a young woman, and to an old woman.
Do you believe in love?
Love is probably the only thing I really believe in. Without love, without interaction with others, we are nobody. We reflect ourselves in the other, and when I see beauty in someone, hopefully that person will feel beautiful. There is a line in a song by Blonde Redhead: ‘If you start doubting me then I start to doubt myself’. We are so dependent on each other we come to live through each other. I think we affect each other very much, and small actions can have a profound influence. Just the way we see each other. The energy we spread around us. A smile from a stranger in the crowd. That is also love. Love exists in so many different forms. We all want to be loved for who we are. That is something we share. Probably that’s why love is a never-ending theme in so many films and songs.
In my film For You Naked two people fall in love without speaking each other’s language. They have to find other ways to get to know each other. I think it’s interesting because it’s easy to tell the same story about yourself. How do you present yourself to the other when you want to put yourself in a good light? Language can also be a protection where you just repeat the same story over and over again.
Freedom seems to play a key role in your life. When do you feel free?
My mother says in the film: ‘If freedom is not feeling ashamed of yourself, then I am far from being free.’ I really think that freedom and shame are related. If you feel ashamed of yourself, of your body, of who you are, then you are not really free.
I feel free when I am surrounded by good energy in people and places. Places where there is air to breathe and things are not totally defined or formed. I am very sensitive to atmospheres and sounds. Freedom doesn’t mean leaving everything behind and taking off, but being in tune with yourself and the choices you make. At the same time, there is so much that we can never control, and in that sense we are not really free. I recently watched a great documentary, A Hard Loving Woman, at Tribeca Film Festival, which screened in the same programme as my short film Homeland. It is about Juliette Lewis and how she left Hollywood and started a rock band. She talks about beauty and how she never could adapt to the beauty ideal. When she goes on stage, she wants to be without makeup and just full of raw energy. It’s very empowering to see a woman who just doesn’t care at all, who doesn’t need to please others. I think that is the opposite of feeling shame. A little child doesn’t feel shame. There is a scene in the film where my sister’s daughter, Alma, aged four, sits in front of the mirror and puts on lipstick. She is playing; it’s a game. But it is also scary, how a four-year-old girl already knows women’s ‘codes’, the way she paints her nails, the way she moves. She knows exactly how to do it, imitating what she’s seen.