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BERLINALE 2019 Panorama

Review: Searching Eva


- BERLIN 2019: Anyone wishing to enter the world of Eva Collé, performer, web personality and the protagonist of Pia Hellenthal’s film presented in Panorama, had better buckle up and take a deep breath

The expression “this film is not for everybody” is a kind of verbal shield, usually used when a critic doesn’t want to be too cruel or harsh when talking about a questionable work of art. In this case, however, it’s just an accurate description of Pia Hellenthal’s full-length debut, which at its best resembles last year’s Golden Bear winner, Touch Me Not [+see also:
film review
interview: Adina Pintilie
film profile
, and for most of its running time feels like we are reading somebody’s personal diary. However, Searching Eva [+see also:
interview: Pia Hellenthal, Eva Collé
film profile
, screening in Panorama at the 69th Berlinale, doesn’t put the audience in the uncomfortable position of a voyeur, because the director and the protagonist have nothing to hide. In fact, they have made an entire film about what happens if one smashes down the barrier of intimacy and exposes him- or herself to the fullest extent possible.

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Twenty-something Eva Collé is a model-cum-artist-cum-social media personality, and a sort of living, breathing art project. By writing and talking about issues that are commonly regarded as intimate or embarrassing, as well as showing her own body off in a range of lights, poses and conditions that would give any mainstream stylist apoplexy, she muses on who she really is. The body is an object of special interest for her, but so are social divisions and pigeonholing. Compartmentalising herself using categories such as “female”, “bisexual” and “sex worker” is simply too restrictive for Eva, who wants to either get rid of these labels once and for all, or redefine them. The film is made up of her voice-over, quotes from anonymous followers (a mixture of the usual awe, hate and sympathy), her trips to clubs and other places in Berlin (a city that resonates perfectly with Eva’s energy), and uncensored conversations with her girlfriends, her mother and potential roommates. It’s more of an essay or a visual diary than a documentary, which may serve as a warning for some and an invitation for others.

As in Adina Pintilie’s Touch Me Not, in Searching Eva the audience’s boundaries, prejudices and tastes are most certainly challenged. However, the actual burning question here is not about the form of the film, but rather about the content: is the on-screen Eva we see a real person, or just a walking, talking tableau? Or maybe she “is” her work, and asking this question thus becomes futile? Well, that’s up to “everybody”.

Searching Eva was staged by Corso Film- und Fernsehproduktion, and Erik Wunker and Martin Roelly have producer credits. Giorgia Malatrasi and Daniela Dieterich served as creative producers. Canadian-based Syndicado represents the film internationally.

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