Silja Hauksdóttir likes to keep herself busy. Originally a student of philosophy, she would be involved in television production for years before co-writing the novel “Dís” with her friends Birna Anna Björnsdóttir and Oddný Sturludóttir. The book would later become Silja’s directorial debut.
She has continued working hard since then, and her latest effort—the film ‘Agnes Joy,’ which she wrote and produced—has been generating quite a buzz.
Who bears responsibility?
“This is a story about a personal journey of a woman who is stuck and stagnated in all aspects of her life,” Silja tells us from South Korea, where the film was screened for an audience for the first time. “At the beginning of the film, at this point in her life, this personal ice age of hers is mirrored in all her relationships, in her marriage, her job, her relationship with her mother and, most importantly, with her daughter. When she gets an exciting wake up call, she becomes more able to see how she herself bears responsibility for how she lives, breathes and behaves. So this is a story about control and the lack of it, and raises questions of what and how we bear responsibility.”
Like many artists, Silja drew inspiration for Agnes Joy from the stories of those around her, while exploring these larger questions about turning points in one’s life.
“Even though the events of the story are not drawn from personal experience or memories, it’s nevertheless inspired by real experiences of ourselves as writers, from us, our friends, the people around us,” she says. “For the last 2-3 years, almost all women have gone through truthful realisations about their experiences, memories and relationships, and this was very close to the creative process of the film; this notion that only truth can set us free.”
The flaws are the features
The common thread through much of Silja’s work concerns telling stories of lives as they are lived, rather than presenting a filtered version of the human experience. It is precisely those imperfections that make our lives real—an ideology Silja hopes audiences connect with.
“I am very interested in how we deal with our flaws, obstacles and the versions of ourselves that we least want to show to the outside world,” Silja tells the Grapevine. “This is what I connect with most myself and, storywise, this is where I get excited. It’s also probably a big reason for why I’m visually drawn to realism, and the beauty of reality when it’s a bit ugly or at least dark.”
The journey begins
At the time of this writing, the film was just screened at the Busan International Film Festival, and, by Silja’s account, the response was very encouraging. Still, she has her eye on the future.
“We just screened it in front of an audience for the first time here in South Korea and it was an incredible experience to feel how people related with a story that I thought was very local,” Silja explains. “We were grateful and relieved at the same time. But this journey is just starting and I can’t wait to experience the reception from an Icelandic audience next week.”
Agnes Joy will premiere in Iceland on October 17th.
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