• International Competition

È a questo punto che nasce il bisogno di fare storia

It is at this point that the need to write history arises

Constanze Ruhm

WARNING: Be forewarned that some people face the possibility of experiencing photosensitive epileptic seizures.

As the 1980s dawned, Carla Lonzi, an art historian and key figure in the feminist revolts of 1970s Italy, devoted the final years of her life to researching a group of 17th century French proto-feminists known as ‘Les Précieuses‘ – made famous by a play by Molière – which gave rise to Armande, sono io!, published posthumously in 1992. Based on this unfinished project with Lonzi’s notes, thoughts and sketches, Constanze Ruhm offers a militant reflection that echoes her previous film Gli appunti di Anna Azzori/Uno specchio che viaggia nel tempo (FID 2020), devoted to the reluctant heroine from the famous movie Anna (1975), which she sets about deconstructing. With this investigation, the film invents a movement in which these 17th century figures converse with voices from the 1970s to the present day. Included are publications by Rivolta Femminile, founded by Lonzi (and some of their authors, first and foremost Suzanne Santoro), as well as essays that intersect, interweave and respond to each other. Ruhm is accompanied on this adventure by the young protagonists who traverse the film, giving body and voice to past and current struggles and their demands, from one era to another. Here we find them taking part in an audition or reincarnating their elders, there returning to haunt a former women’s prison in Rome, or reappropriating poses borrowed from the paintings of Artemisia Gentileschi. All these gestures pay homage to the figures of the past, issuing a call to take up what has been started, deflected and fragmented, and to implement it by activating its transformative powers.

Nicolas Feodoroff

In your previous feature GLI APPUNTI DI ANNA AZZORI / UNO SPECCHIO CHE VIAGGIA NEL TEMPO (FID 2020), you were interested in building a reverse shot to the film ANNA (Alberto Grifi and Massimo Sarchielli, 1972), in a feminist perspective. What drew you to Carla Lonzi?

In relation to GLI APPUNTI, the new film serves as a continuation and a refracted mirror image of its predecessor. It revisits and deepens some of the original themes: Italian feminism of the 1970s and 1980s, patriarchal and structural violence against women, the relationship between fiction and reality, and it also is an homage to feminist artists. This effort, much like GLI APPUNTI, aims to make women’s contributions to history, to art visible and rewrite (art) history from a feminist perspective, functioning as a kind of feminist historiography.
Carla Lonzi features prominently as an author, art critic, and key figure in the history of Italian feminism during that period. Delving into that era and its feminist history, one cannot overlook her preeminent influence. Some of the artists featured in the film were acquaintances of Lonzi, such as Suzanne Santoro and Stephanie Oursler, while she was undoubtedly aware of others like Annabella Miscuglio and the feminist film collective Collettivo femminista cinema Miscuglio collaborated with.
The relationship between Carla Lonzi and Artemisia Gentileschi in this work is more subdued and layered, primarily based on the concept of the self-portrait, which was significant in both Lonzi’s writing and Gentileschi’s painterly oeuvre. Interestingly, Gentileschi became a foundational figure for the feminist artists’ collective Beato Angelico, which emerged from a split within Rivolta Femminile. This collective, founded by several feminist artists as an independent art space in Rome in the 1970s, featured a large painting by Gentileschi in their inaugural exhibition.
Lonzi’s book “Autoritratto”, published in 1969, is a kind of cut-up script derived from interviews with several artists, including her close friend Carla Accardi. By focusing on artists she was close to both personally and critically, it becomes Lonzi’s ‘self-portrait’ through the works and thoughts of others. The film, while addressing the aforementioned themes, can also be seen as a portrait of Carla Lonzi in a similar vein to “Autoritratto”.
However, it is important to note that this is not a film “about” Carla Lonzi. Instead, it takes her as a reference point, using her work and writing as an echo chamber. The film takes her unfinished project as a starting point and echo chamber, rethinking it from a contemporary perspective to highlight specific feminist experiences across three centuries, thereby establishing a historical continuity previously unseen.

Reconstructions, remakes and reenactments punctuate the film. How did you conceive them?

There are different instances of these devices or techniques in my film. In one case, the re-enactment refers to a series of documentary photographs from 1972, originally published in the already mentioned book “La strada più lunga” by feminist photographer Maria Grazia Chinese. These photos depict gatherings and consciousness-raising groups of feminists in Milan, Rome, and Venice in the early 1970s.
For my film, I worked with a group of young women in the patio garden of the Casa internazionale delle donne in Rome, the historic heart of Roman feminism. I recreated scenes based on the photographs to provide a space for the performers to speak, discuss, and explore the situation on different levels. It was a “casting” for the film-within-the-film and a form of re-enactment of the photographs.
It’s important to note that forms such as castings, rehearsals, and re-enactments have historically played a significant role in most of my films. They serve as frameworks for the development of open performative spaces, as elements of a narrative of unfinished histories, and as devices to highlight the fact that seemingly fixed constellations are always contingent, temporary, open-ended, and fragile – they can be always “put to the test” anew.
In the case of the short film Il piacere del testo by Adriana Monti from 1977, the situation was different. I did not obtain the rights to use the original footage by the director, and I only had seen it once in a program. So, I decided to pay tribute to it in the form of an imaginary, imagined homage, based on my memory, on what little I knew about the film. Other materials, on the contrary, are actual archival footage, such as excerpts from Fughe lineari in progressione psichica and Anna’s textures by Annabella Miscuglio, both from the 1970s as well.
The music was conceived by Gael Segalen, with whom I am collaborating for the third time now. It is originally based on a baroque song titled “Che si può fare” by the Venetian composer Barbara Strozzi from the 17th century.

Many feminist voices are summoned (from Sappho to Sara Ahmed) not necessarily related to Carla Lonzi. How did you conceive this editing?

When I prepare a new film, I always conduct extensive research and reading. The diverse feminist voices, texts, references included in my film stem from this preparation, but certainly also from my lifetime of practice as a feminist filmmaker, author, researcher, and teacher. Many references emerge during the writing process and relate to the work’s subject matter, such as feminist art history, the concept of the archive, the structural violence of patriarchy, forensics, rape culture and so on. Writers like Sara Ahmed and Virginie Despentes are ones I revisit frequently. Although their connection to Lonzi may not be immediately apparent, their topics, thinking, and radicality are profoundly interconnected.

In your inquiry, past and present are intertwined, as well as you mix many generations. Was it important for you?

The film weaves together the 17th century, the 1970s as well as the present in order to create a complex refraction and intertwinement of feminist histories. All these elements are interwoven within a journey through time whose protagonists are constantly transforming: they appear as actresses at a casting; as vengeful ghosts haunting a former women’s prison in Rome; as the French Précieuses of the 17th century; as feminist filmmakers and as participants in an autocoscienza group in Rome in the 1970s. In this disintegrating time continuum, Carla Lonzi meets the 17th century actress Armande in Palermo: “è a questo punto che nasce il bisogno di fare storia”: it is at this point that the desire to write history arises. The question of how to develop a new approach to feminist historiography is at the heart of Lonzis’ research and therefore also of this film. It oscillates between fiction and reality, between real and invented documents (“memory begins in an invented world”, as the Neapolitan feminist collective Le Nemesiache writes), and at the same time becomes an archive of feminist art itself. This creates a new and different relationship between past and present, which includes an experience that was previously considered worthless: that of women.

In the film, we see Suzanne Santoro, among others, to whom she was close, even if they had some disagreements. How important for you is his presence in the opening of the film?

Suzanne is a pivotal character in this film. She was Lonzi’s friend and an artist of immense significance to feminist art history, although it took considerable time for her contributions to be fully acknowledged. Moreover, Suzanne herself transcends her role as an individual; she becomes a character symbolizing both past and future.

The figure of the mirror punctuates the film, as in the title: A film as a broken mirror. Could you enlighten this choice?

The idea of using a mirror as an aesthetic and visual device to connect past and present within a single frame emerged during discussions between Hannes Boeck, my camera person and editor, and myself. Inspired partly by Suzanne Santoro’s 1970s series BLACK MIRRORS, a rendering of which appears early in the film as she holds it up to the camera, we decided to integrate this concept.
During filming, the mirror accidentally fell from the tripod and shattered into pieces. Surprisingly, this mishap proved beneficial as we incorporated the shards as optical tools and props. The shards took on multiple symbolic roles: as weapons, as signals of bodies, and as catalysts for a communal act where women came together to reconstruct the mirror in a new configuration. This act symbolized a collective stance against violence, patriarchy, and the stereotypical representations of women. Thus, while our initial use of the mirror was deliberate and planned, the unforeseen event of its breakage introduced an unexpected and enriching dimension to our visual narrative.

Interviewed by Nicolas Feodoroff

  • International Competition
16:3026 June 2024Artplexe 1
09:3027 June 2024Artplexe 2
14:0030 June 2024Artplexe 1

Technical sheet

Austria, Portugal / 2024 / Colour and B&W / 96'

Original version: German, Italian
Subtitles: English, French
Script: Constanze Ruhm
Photography: Hannes Boeck
Editing: Hannes Boeck, Constanze Ruhm
Music: Gaël Segalen, Sebastian Meyer, Kasho  Chualan
Sound: Sebastian Meyer, Celestine Frontino
Cast: Gemma Vannuzzi, Nicole Papa, Judith van der Werff, Inge Maux, Rebecca Cipolla, Chiara Constantini, Benedetta  Colantoni, Giada Foletto, Domiziana De Fulvio, Saret Lusi, Valentina Mei, Elettra Luna Pandolfi, Letizia Santillan, Rosa Vannucci, Claudia Zanetti, Katharina  Aigner, Hicran Ergen, Ipek Hamzaoğlu, Miyu Haydn, Berenice Pahl, Christiana Perschon, Younis Perschon, Anna Rimmel, Valentina Waldner

Production: Constanze Ruhm (balthazara films), Anže  Peršin (Stenar Projects)
Contact: Constanze Ruhm (balthzara films)

È a questo punto che nasce il bisogno di fare storia (2024, 96 min., color & b/w, sound)
Dark Mirrors Turning Brighter (2023, 2:36 min., b/w, silent)
A Shard is a Fragment of a Life (2023, 2 channel installation / 2 x 23 min., color, sound)
Pearls Without a String (72 min., color, sound)
Pearls Without a String – Trailer (2020, 3 min., color, sound)
La strada (è ancora) più lunga (2021, 2 channel installation / 2 x 60 min., color, sound)
Gli appunti di Anna Azzori / Uno specchio che viaggia nel tempo (2019, 72 min., color, sound)
Comparing Local Spectres (2015, 18 min., b/w, sound)
Panoramis Paramount Paranormal (2014-16, 54 min., color, sound) with Emilien Awada
Cold Rehearsal (2011/12, 90 min., color, sound) with Christine Lang
Crash Site / My_Never_Ending_Burial_Plot (2010, 69 min., color, sound)
X Love Scenes / Pearls without a String (2007, 58 min., color, sound)
X NaNa / Subroutine (2004, 30 min., color, sound)
X Characters / RE(hers)AL (2003/4, 62 min., color, sound)
A Memory of the Players in a Mirror at Midnight (2001, 26 min., color, sound)
Travelling / Plan 234 / Extérieur Nuit (1999/2005, 2:40 min., b/w, silent)
Evidence (1999, 5:30 min., color, silent)
Apartment (1999, 18 min., b/w, silent)