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The art of offering (enough) to himself

Searching Eve
Regissør: Pia Hellenthal

CULTURE OF OPENNESS / Eva is a model, blogger, author, musician and sex worker, uncertain in what order, and appears as a kind of living art project.

This article is machine translated by Google from Norwegian

Around the turn of the millennium there was a trend for so-called personal documentaries , as Margreth Olins My body and Gunnar Hall Jensens Gunnar Goes Comfortable was among the Norwegian exponents for. The debate in the wake of these films, in which filmmakers shared intimate aspects of their own lives, was often about the distinction between the personal and that private. With the personal aim one experiences and matters of public interest, which it was consequently valuable and even admirable to share, while the private were aspects which one probably should have kept to oneself.

The private in the public

This type of documentary has by no means disappeared, with Sofia Haugan's Amanda winning Røverdatter and the NRK series work involving as recent examples. The "personal documentary" label, however, no longer seems to be used to the same extent, nor is it as much concerned with discussing the distinction between personal and private. This may be partly because the dichotomy was not necessarily so constructive in the first place. Perhaps it was rather an over-simplified rhetoric for dismissing unpalatable elements? But it may also be related to the fact that the private sphere has moved ever further into the public space.

Here, of course, I'm referring to the blog sphere and Social Media, but also to ministers who invite the press home to launch their latest political play or appear from a popular side in row of gold at NRK. Or artists and actors who, in candid interviews, "talk about the difficult time" associated with being involved with a record or movie. You have to bid of itself.

Groundbreaking openness

documentary Searching Eva  goes into this issue of skin, body hair, "likes" and comment fields. Admittedly, the movie is not, by definition, one personal documentary, since director Pia Hellenthal never even take part in front of the camera. Instead, she has made a portrait film about the Berlin-based Italian "millennial" Eva Collé, who has made it her life project to challenge the notions of identity and sexuality with a near-pervasive openness. To the extent that there are still any limits to transparency, I should perhaps add.

Eva is a model, blogger, author, musician and sex worker, uncertain in what order, and appears as a kind of living art project. The opposition to conformity and conventional categorization is clear: She does not feel at home in the category people usually associate with the word "girl," and claims to have dedicated her life to showing the world that you can pretend to be who you want. She does not want any regular job either. "The system fucks you anyway, but I want to make money out of it," says the reason why she chose to prostitute herself – allegedly to her father when she left her childhood home.

Paradoxical honesty

Eva's play with identity is undeniably paradoxical, all the while she seems to share the most about herself with brutal honesty – in the film as well as in social media.

The documentary consists of both "fly on the wall" observations and staged, more stylized sequences. As a narrative voice, we hear Eva read from presumably peculiar texts about abuse and diagnosis, about being a heroin heroine child, and about her own substance abuse. The film often shows her naked, she lets herself film when she has sex and when she takes strong drugs.

Searching Eva Director Pia Hellenthal

Searching Eve also uses text posters with comments from social media, where we gain insight into people's reactions to Eva's presentation of herself. "You're the post-modern Jeanne d'Arc," one writes, while others are more concerned with her unshaven body hair, which both inspires and provokes. Many are asking for personal advice, and one thinks that Eva's life is so cool that it's like an "indie movie". One suspects that Eva makes her life sound more miserable to appear more interesting. And another is terribly afraid that Eve is not a real human being.

transparency Revolution

"Most of all, I love how you love me," it says in a pop song at the beginning of the movie. Evas is easy to dismiss even exposure as a desperate desire for confirmation, which undoubtedly applies to many who offer themselves online.

Searching Eve however, seeks deeper into this problem: Is there really a revolution going on with this vast access to others' eyes, opinions and experiences, and the associated opportunities to show and stage themselves?

Ironically, the film doesn't make us feel particularly familiar with the protagonist.

Ironically, the film doesn't make us feel particularly familiar with the protagonist, despite all her intimate renditions. But this is perhaps the point. No matter how much she shares, Eva will not let the past define who she is – as little as the outside world should.

Searching Eve points to the negative and positive aspects of the extreme openness culture among "millennials" online, without giving clear conclusions. One consequence of this "revolution" may be that it no longer makes sense to distinguish between the private and the personal – most of which will in any case be felt relevant to someone.

Far more important is probably the question of ownership of one's own presentation. The film mentions girls who have been killed after videos of them have been circulated online, in contrast to Eva's control over her own exposure. Well to note without her being an example of general imitation. "I couldn't see that the joke was on me," it sings in another song toward the end of the film – while a lonely Eve keeps her eyes on us directly.

For many, Eva's staging of herself may appear hollow, superficial and attention-seeking, but then the whole picture has not necessarily been seen. For here the mediation itself seems to be the message.

Searching Eve is available on VG + online and regularly appears on VG's TV channel.

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Aleksander Huser
Huser is a regular film critic in Ny Tid.

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