Sophie Linnenbaum • Director of The Ordinaries
"Only by consciously turning to and questioning these mechanisms of narratives can we become storytellers ourselves"
- The director unpicks her movie, and how she lets the outside discourse of identity, social caste and media representation form a meta-world within the film
While some argue that film reflects our everyday world, the spotlights usually come from within the narrative structure to shine a light on the outside. In Sophie Linnenbaum’s feature film debut The Ordinaries [+see also:
interview: Sophie Linnenbaum
film profile], she inverts this process and lets the outside discourse of identity, social caste and media representation form a meta-world within her movie. The Ordinaries had its world premiere at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, in the Crystal Globe Competition.
Cineuropa: You have already visited this world of outtakes with your short film Out of Frame. Is this movie a sequel of sorts or a completely different world? Or is it simply a theme that fascinates you?
Sophie Linnenbaum: It's a new spin on the world. The idea from Out of Frame, with the main character being so lonely that he falls out of the frame – that stuck with me. I would say that while in Out of Frame all the things are linked emotionally, in The Ordinaries we tried to build an allegoric society with this cinematic meta-universe.
On the one hand, there is this idea that everyone is a main character, everyone is worth something. But on the other hand, there's this assumption that if you're not present, you're a nobody. There are very different ideologies intersecting. Where do you see the areas of tension?
Basically, these two fields intersect in the question of "How do we tell our stories and about whom do we tell our stories?" So, it’s about who is worthy enough to be seen as an individual and how there are certain groups of people shaped by the stories about them. Due to this exclusion, certain groups are denied the right to present themselves and instead they are often defined by the narrative of others. Only by consciously turning to and questioning these mechanisms of narratives can we become storytellers ourselves.
There is a saying that you should only tell what you know. Are you afraid of navel-gazing a bit too much when you make a meta-film about films and images?
It was our goal, to try not to find elitist metaphors for our meta-film-world, but to always try to translate things intuitively into film language. Accordingly, I do believe that this is a film that can communicate with the audience. That is, after all, the underlying theme. You get the feeling that the narratives try to retell reality, but they also often shape it.
Your main character is searching for her father, which is rooted in social status affirmation, and the search for oneself.
Yes, the character is searching for her identity by trying to find the right box she might fit into. As she goes on that journey she might wonder if there is anything outside of those boxes.
The look of your film is also very reminiscent of the zenith of Hollywood, the '50s and '60s.
That look lent itself to us on several levels. On the one hand, from a meta-film perspective, so to speak, there is this time of big Hollywood productions in which everything is shiny and beautiful but within a very rigid society. Fashion was about showing everything perfect and smooth and beautiful on the outside. But on the other, it was also a time when there was oppression and discrimination.
You have a lot of quotes in the plot, I recognised Forrest Gump and Pleasantville. Can you tell me how many references you hid in the movie?
An infinite number. We always joke that we need a website, 100 things you didn't know about The Ordinaries. For example, the mentor's motivational speech – we stitched that together from five different films with classic motivational monologues.
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