Who do you want to be?
I’m often surprised when I find out things about myself I didn’t know. I don’t think we have one true self but many different faces. Rilke writes about that in The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge: how we consist of so many different layers and faces. We walk around with them and put them on – sometimes one face gets worn out, or becomes thin like paper.
I have spent so many years of my life trying to be someone else and looking for something else, with a restlessness that in some ways is positive, because it’s about being curious, longing to explore, to move on. But there is also another side to it, when you’re always on the run, feeling independent and free, without anything keeping you. Loneliness can be brutal sometimes. I don’t have the same restlessness anymore. My mother talks about that in the film, that she no longer yearns for somewhere else, not in the same way as before, when she always carried a diffuse longing for elsewhere.
I appreciate to be in one place for a longer time; at the same time, I have a nomadic mind so I can get up and leave any minute. And I still love that feeling of being on the road, on my way, playing good music, watching the landscape changing, being in transit. Or just waiting for the plane at the airport, or arriving to a new place where I’ve never been before and don’t know what to expect.
I now spend more time in the countryside in Sweden, where I have an old house. I also live part-time in Berlin. These two places are very good for me because I feel so much at home and alive. There is no pretence. It just is what it is, natural, beautiful and raw. There’s a title of a book by Robert Frank: ‘Hold Still – Keep Going’. I very much believe in that. To not rush, but to be present. I think that’s the most important thing for a filmmaker or an artist. I work in a very intuitive way. I always have my camera with me.
Failure: How do you feel about it?
When I grew up, I felt like my whole life was a failure compared to others. My parents were artists, our home was chaotic and unconventional. We lived in the countryside in Sweden, our neighbours were farmers. My friends’ parents had normal jobs. I was ashamed and wanted to be like everybody else. In the film, there is a passage with a little girl with a cute dress, Sophia. We were best friends. I adored her. She was so pretty, their home picture-perfect. I felt like a failure compared to her. But underneath the surface things weren’t that perfect. And she dreamt of my life.
Now when I look back I am happy that it was not all perfect and that I have the experience of what it means not to fit in. I had to find my own way. Feeling that I was not in the right place made me curious to explore other worlds. I started travelling at an early age and went alone on trains in Eastern Europe for the first time when I was 15. I was very shy and had an old Hi 8 camera that I used to film everything I saw, people I met – a way to communicate and get in touch with people. I was so full of questions about love, the feeling of home, and I ended up filming very personal conversations with people I met on trains and in places in Bosnia, Romania, Bulgaria, Italy, all around Europe. I am now using that archive material for my new film, Notes On A Journey. Feeling different or feeling like a failure can also be a driving force for you to search for others who share your experience. I felt much more at home in Bosnia than I did in my own small village in the countryside.
There was a period in my teens when I revolted against the chaos that was around me, growing up in an artist family and a messy home, and with parents who were different. Everything had to be perfect. I loved writing, but suddenly it was related to prestige. I wrote chronicles for a daily newspaper, a full-page article every Saturday. I won many prestigious literary prizes. I was the youngest ever to receive a journalist prize at the age of 18. I was offered a book contract. I did everything right. I was successful from the outside. Yet, inside I was torn apart and very unhappy. It was all just a shell. The more successful I became the more distant from myself. Finally, I didn’t know what I wanted anymore, and all the passion was gone. When you are afraid of failure, you stick to the well-known, which I believe is the greatest threat to creativity.
I don’t care so much anymore about being loved by everyone; I am interested in the notion of failure, what that means. Also, the complementary idea: success, what that means. Of course, I want to always do the best I can, and I want people to like what I do. But who decides what is a failure? To write one great script, maybe you have to write ten bad ones before you get there. When I showed the first versions of my film to my mentor, Stefan Jarl, it was ‘a failure’ and I knew it, but it was part of the process. I believe that we need to defuse the fear of failure.
What do you want people to think and feel as they are leaving the theatre?
After a screening at Gothenburg Film Festival, a woman came up to me and hugged me, saying, ‘Thank you for making this film! The first thing I will do when I go home is call my daughter. We never really talk.’
The end (or just the beginning?)
Meet us in Krakow! In competition at Krakow Film Festival
1 June 19.30 Malopolski Ogród Sztuki (MOS 1)
3 June 14.30 Malopolski Ogród Sztuki (MOS 1)
a feature-length documentary by Sara Broos
Also available in the online library
Website & Trailer