In close proximity - translating an embodied female history in film

by Désirée Pfenninger

Research & project

The core of this research stems from a desire to understand the entanglement of violence and care in intimate relationships. Désirée Pfenninger is particularly interested in relationships that are not of one's choosing, such as the family and the entanglements that live within it. She chose the physical body as the texture for her research and started from her personal story, a relationship between a mother, a doctor, and a daughter, a filmmaker who became a mother herself. This intergenerational history is marked by loss of identity after World War II, guilt, the trauma of unspoken violence against women at the end of the war, and also strong resilience and resistance. She uses the camera as a tool to film their bodies, in many different ways, to explore the scars and symptoms that history has left in the relationship. By bringing this inscription back into the fictional realm, she questions whether we can rewrite our narratives through filmmaking.

Her research of the last two years will be incorporated into the development of an auto-fictionalfeature ‘Dialogues with My Mother’ (WT). The film is about a daughter who visits her mother after becoming a mother herself. In the domestic sphere, while preparing dinner, while bathing the child, during treatments in the mother's doctor's office in the house, family patterns of hidden violence reveal themselves between the three characters. Unable to leave the place, the young mother keeps postponing her departure and slowly there is a transformation of their relationship. The research becomes the texture of the film. the filmmaker, her mother and her son are turning into characters. The work on this project is an attempt to develop a method of filmmaking based on the embodiment of a story, with the aim of allowing hidden female narratives to appear in the film images and to question methods of feature film production.

Désirée Pfenninger

Désirée Pfenninger

Master of Film

Désirée Pfenninger is a filmmaker and artist living in Berlin and Amsterdam. She studied camera and feature film directing in Paris and Potsdam, Babelsberg. Her visual work explores human relationships, intergenerational history and female filmmaking. She portrays the most intimate areas such as the domestic space and the body to speak about the trauma of socio-cultural factors, lost identity and resistance. In her working methods, she questions and transforms the way she works with fictional narratives to examine female life as an open structure.

Through filming bodies and objects, she engages with the nuances of female subjectivity, using the camera as a tool to understand and express embodied trans-generational history and how human relationships are shaped through it . Her narrative film works and research projects are reassembled in ways that reveal and evoke alternative histories. Her work has been shown at international film festivals and exhibitions. In 2021, she enrolled in the Master's program in Artistic Research in and through cinema at the Netherlands Film Academy.

Terug naar lijst