When I was a little girl I used to play with dolls, and I would imagine a whole world for them to inhabit. My bed and the chairs formed a landscape within which I could play out little tragedies or comedies with the dolls as characters. I did this from around the age of six to ten, and I loomed above the scenery, controlling the placement of the dolls. Sometimes I would lie down on my belly so that my eyes were level with the dolls, staring at the scenery I had created. I definitely had a favourite doll: sporty Barbie. ‘What is going on?’ I would whisper while my face was close to hers. As she told me her thoughts about the other Barbies, and about how deeply she wanted to sit next to Ken – the Barbies’ male counterpart – I decided to rearrange the composition of the characters and create a new set-up. A new mise-en-scène.
Most of the time – as is often the case with little children – the dolls I was playing with would end up resembling a family. From the innocent fictional world, I established as a child to the present day, I have always been playing with the idea of family.
For me, the family is a dynamic system. As is suggested by the ideas of Family as a System, I conceive of the family as a network of power relations, which defines itself and redefines itself over and over each time any member introduces new thoughts. These mechanisms of interaction are present yet, to most of us, virtually invisible. I am fascinated by the dissonant fact that the family appears to be a self-reconstituting and adaptable apparatus, yet is governed by strict social roles and rules. The aim of my work is to demonstrate the nature of this familial apparatus.
Regarding the mechanisms through which families interact, spatiality plays an important role in both my work and my working methodology. When I start writing a scene, I begin by mapping it out in space. Through researching the needs and thoughts of a character, new movements and positions are defined in relation to cinematic space. By showing the constellation of characters, one shows the mise-en-scène of the family.
In the filmmaking process, mise-en-scène is often undertaken as a primarily technical step. But for me, exploring the dynamics of the family by means of constructing and reflecting upon their physical placement in a scene has always been a vital and essential working method, through which I question my own ideas.
In order to reach my aim, I asked myself: how can I reveal the many layers of subjectivity that enmesh mise-en-scène? First, I observe the real familial events of other people that occur in the world around me. Second, I construe my observations in terms of my role as the filmmaker who constructs the scene, like a puppeteer playing with dolls. Third, I research personal perceptions of the mise-en-scène through the points of view of the characters I have written.
The moment I lay down on my belly and heard Barbie’s desire to be close to Ken, I realised that no static, definitive situation can possibly exist. The situation shifts the moment I create a point of view, filled with thought and intention. In that moment, my mise-en-scène was born.