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Idas Dagbok - Mommy är Gud

[…] Ida’s case is particularly interesting because we cannot help but recognize the suffering from a lot of “cultural” problems that are intertwined with her physical impediments: a sense of guilt, the social pressure to be better or “normal”, the difficulty others have understanding the involuntary nature of her loss of control.

[…] All of these elements bring our attention to the distance between daughter and mother, and between us and the intimate world of a troubled mind. This distance is the very protagonist of «Mamma är Gud»: it is our “eye-opener”, and the mirror of our difficulty in gaining access to the mother.

Ida is depressive, or she is an ex-narcotics abuser, psychotic, or schizophrenic, she has a troubled personality, or bipolar disorder, or something else. The diagnoses of her case multiplies like the drugs and pills she ingests. But we also see her laughing, walking, crying, smiling, and, moreover, talking. Idas DagbokIda’s Diary – is simply her personal video diary, an exceptional immersion into Ida’s subjective point of view, observing her mental problems from inside: an extraordinary opportunity to let go of the clinical attitude towards people who suffer emotive issues.

Ida’s filming has a specific therapeutic value for her, as it allows her to put the burden of her excessive thoughts and feelings at a certain distance. Thus, in its pathological version, Idas Dagbok can also speak for a large number of recent documentary films, often involved in autoanalysis, and take advantage of the benefits of explicitly externalizing difficult situations.

But the uniqueness of August B. Hanssen’s film is in the fact that the camera doesn’t function as a third, neutral element: it is not meant to replace the ear of the psychologist but, rather, the mouth of the patient. It is incredible how Hanssen has been able to construct images that are in perfect continuity with the excerpts of Ida’s self-filming. He shows a rare capacity to empathize with her, succeeding in expressing her changing world, between the emotional rushes and the rational autoanalysis. Even the tempo of the film, which plays a decisive role for its dramaturgy, fits well with the alternative phases of Ida’s diary. On the contrary, Hanssen often uses the soundtrack to hide the fragmented style of his film material: this brings a strange homogeneity to the whole, whereas he probably could have dared more on the sound level.

Actually, Ida’s constant talking is not just an expression of her feelings and thoughts, but it also sets up the occasion to propose a critical reflection on how we deal with people who succumb to self-injury. Ida’s case is particularly interesting because we cannot help but recognize the suffering from a lot of “cultural” problems that are intertwined with her physical impediments: a sense of guilt, the social pressure to be better or “normal”, the difficulty others have understanding the involuntary nature of her loss of control. The border between the cultural, psychological, psychiatric, and neurological is very thin. Ida’s improbable obsessions go together with the most lucid observations about life.

In this way, through the strong empathy we experience for her, Idas Dagbok becomes a film that makes us reflect on our “normal” attitudes. It pushes us to be more attentive to the hidden integrity of weird people, or to their rich personalities, whose complexity is a challenge and a resource at the same time.

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With Maria Bäck’s Mamma är Gud – Mommy is God, the Neues Kino Basel adds a second pearl to the theme of mental troubles.

Here the filmmaker is a loving daughter, who we see building a film on her disturbed mum. The self-reflective form – with the insertion of the “making-of” into the film – and the recurring image of Maria looking out from the window, and being framed by the window, constitute the analytical background that is her, and our, calm point of view on the bold fantasies of her mother. The latter is only present via Skype, in the form of a voice-over, where the invisible and the interior meet. Moreover, Maria Bäck uses two actresses to create a parallel fictional story about a young girl and her psychiatrist, recalling her mother’s childhood – providing so an easy projection to the inversed mother-daughter relationship.

All of these elements bring our attention to the distance between daughter and mother, and between us and the intimate world of a troubled mind. This distance is the very protagonist of Mamma är Gud: it is our “eye-opener”, and the mirror of our difficulty in gaining access to the mother. The distance is articulated temporally: the film is a work of memory, a biography, even a reflection on time, birth, and death. It is interesting that it is the affectionate daughter Maria, not her mother, who cherishes immortality. Instead, the mother doesn’t want to be immortal and recalls the truth of death being inherent to birth.

If the “making-of,” the voice-over, and the parallel fictional story are all tools that flesh out to the role that distance and the time play in the relationship with the mother, the well-edited image layer is rich with associative ideas and suggestive photography, which try to come as close as possible to the mother’s words. Thus, this layer conveys an immediacy that balances perfectly with the themes of distance, memory, and time, and gives us the impression of touching the invisible mother who speaks from a distance.

Mamma är Gud is a highly constructed and mature work, in which physical contact and distance play the game of love.

Text: Giuseppe Di Salvatore
First published: September 11, 2016

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