• Ciné + competition


Maria Kaur Bedi,

Satindar Singh Bedi

This autobiographical essay retraces a couple of filmmakers’ years of struggle in their battle with Satindar’s alcoholism. Initiated by Maria with the intention of addressing her partner’s addiction, the film’s scope was broadened to include the dimension of their relationship, their love. This forced the couple to bare their souls, the intimacy of their thoughts released in a potentially cathartic movement. It’s a harsh account, whether from Maria’s point of view, trapped by hope and a kind of saviour syndrome, or Satindar’s haunting lamentations, replaying his alcoholism in his darkest delirium until he becomes a third voice, a deformed, monstrous shadow, always ready to negotiate a new descent into his all-too-familiar hell. In contrast to this baring of souls, the image offers blurred silhouettes that sometimes border on abstraction, in a wide and artistically striking variety of treatments. This desire to give life to the shadows aims to reveal, in the words of the director, inner rather than external images. The distance this creates between the couple and their story allows us to find our place, to let ourselves be carried along by the sublime, intense flow of what turns out to be the film’s real subject: mad, unconditional, senseless love.

Maria, soon after you met Satindar, you wanted to deal with his stories, particularly his alcoholism. At what point did it become necessary to call upon your relationship, and ultimately co-direct the film together? How did you cast your roles?

Maria Kaur Bedi: ” I understood very early that Satindar had an alcohol problem. When he opened up to me and said that his mother was also drinking with him, that he was drinking with his mother as a child, this moment itself made it clear to me that I wanted to make a film about his story and name it THE CURSE. Why did I want to do it? Maybe I was afraid of the addiction and, to calm my fear, I tried to better understand it. Maybe I felt that making a film on alcohol addiction would create the distance and space/time for me to digest the situation I found myself in. Only later, as he relapsed several times while shooting, did I feel directly affected by his addiction and only then did my perspective and “character” came into the story. So the film which was supposed to be about alcohol addiction, became a film about a love at stake because of the alcohol addiction.

Satindar, lorsque Maria vous a fait part de cette proposition, quelle a été votre réaction ? L’aviez-vous envisagé comme une possibilité de catharsis par le cinéma ?

Satindar Sigh Bedi: “Maria wanted to understand my history. Why did I do what I did? When? Where? How? I did not remember my past. We began with a series of interviews in a dark room, where I would close my eyes, Maria would ask questions and using the stream of consciousness method I regressed into my past. The film evolved and acquired its own form. Initially I was amused by the idea of making a film on my life. During the course of filming, catharsis through cinema did take place but in unexpected and unimaginable ways. It still feels surreal and unbelievable. I was able to go through the whole process of filming and its later consequences by detaching and stepping outside of myself. I imagined standing at a distance looking at this person (myself) and finding his life story insightful, cautionary, interesting and funny at times. The stories of my life and the regurgitating emotional memories drew me like a strong gravitational force and I was at the centre of my being as never before. I found myself to be comfortable in my own skin.”

The film is built on the alternation of three voices, yours and a third, that of addiction, in Satindar’s pitched timbre. Can you tell us about this choice? And how did you go about writing and articulating them?

“Every addiction has a voice and tries to sweet-talk the addict. I knew this from smoking. When I quit smoking, my addiction told me that if I did not smoke I would never be happy again in my life. Obviously this is not a voice which you hear, but thoughts which you have which are not your thoughts but the addiction’s. When I saw Satindar relapsing again and again, even knowing exactly what harm it was doing to his body, family and beloved, and regretting it heavily afterwards, I asked myself why he was drinking, knowing that it did not bring any good. So I asked him how the relapse started and what his thoughts were at this point. Basically I told Satindar to give the addiction a voice. That’s what he did and it was terrifying.”

In relation to these voices, the image proposes mainly diffuse views of silhouettes and shadows, sometimes tending towards abstraction. The variety of treatments is impressive. Can you tell us about the plastic composition?

Satindar Singh Bedi: “I love reflections so Maria used to take pictures of reflections she saw on her walks and send them to me. Sending pictures was a playful romantic thing. During the making of the film, we soon felt that the “normal” way of shooting a documentary was not what we wanted for our film. And we came back to this idea of shooting it in reflections. Instead of a face, if we showed a shadow, people could put their own stories and associations to it. This very personal story then opens up and becomes a universal collective palette of bringing to surface the hidden subconscious.”

Maria Kaur Bedi: “We searched for images that reflected the inner and emotional landscape. The images we have chosen are inner images, images of the subconsciousness. We developed the concept of only using reflections, shadows and silhouettes and abstract images we developed while making the film. We enjoyed the whole journey of the film acquiring its own form during the shooting.”

Satindar Singh Bedi: “For her work Maria was nominated for the German Cameraprize which is one of the biggest prizes in the german speaking countries.”

The film ends with an ultimatum. Would you like to tell us about it?

Maria Kaur Bedi: “So far the ultimatum is “successful” and Satindar didn’t relapse. So far our love story has a happy end, but you can’t heal an addiction. It will always be there as a shadow of a person. It is scary but I learned to live with it.”

Satindar Singh Bedi: “I’ve now been sober for over two years but every day is a new struggle. But my love for Maria (and Antabus) helps me wanting to stay sober. One point is not to underestimate. Sobriety only brings the true problems to the surface. I was diagnosed with Complex PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and find myself taking prescription drugs every day and doing therapy. The ultimatum keeps the seriousness of the addiction alive and a constant reminder that it only takes one slip, one sip before what we have lovingly built, crashes like a sand castle around our feet. The external promise will only work because the actual ultimatum is something I give to myself — do not drink, it’s not worth it. Easy to say but hard to follow. I keep trying daily. 

Interview by Paul Eudeline


  • Ciné + competition

Technical sheet

Switzerland / 2022 / 82’

Rights holders
Spirited Heroine Productions
Maria Kaur Bedi
Satindar Singh Bedi