“Identity” as the theme of the festival is not easy to narrow down due to the abundance of different definitions. Nevertheless, the questions that arise in this context are always the same: Who am I? What makes me to a person? How do others see me? This is not primarily “only” about one’s own identity. Identity is inscribed in both individuals and groups, whereby the concept is to be understood as a constantly changing variable that finds expression, among other things, in the assumption of certain social roles.
The central question could be: “How does film deal with different images of identity? Since it is a medium in which stories are primarily told, the role of identity in the context of these stories is also the primary question to be asked. In their examination of reality, films do not only offer the classic narrative of “good and evil”, as fairy tales do.
No. Film, like no other medium, provides a kind of handout for our own identity by catching us as recipients in our personal history. It is like a kind of cuddly toy that compensates for our losses, feelings and longings by helping us find ourselves again in the stories. The film narrative is, if you will, the filling in of certain gaps that burn themselves into one’s life and that want to be filled, if only for the moment. In the process, for the moment of experiencing cinema, a world is revealed in which the boundaries between fiction and reality seem to dissolve. To a certain extent, film can contribute to the formation of one’s own identity. However, it should not be forgotten that since the early days of film, Western society, as the quasi-owner of the cinematic cultural technique, has persistently reproduced its own self-image. Starting with the stereotypical American suburban family, to historical film material, which is particularly pleased to transport the myth of Western values.
Films like “Fight Club” (David Fincher, USA 1999) make it particularly clear that there is another way. A kind of antithesis of typical identity formation against the background of American philistine worlds. Fincher created a narrative here that questions both capitalism and stereotypical concepts of masculinity. In this identity-less copy of his own life, the nameless protagonist embarks on a search for his own identity, confronting himself and the audience with hard questions. What is fictional and what is social chaos? Where does our own consciousness end and how consciously do we perceive our world? The film culminates in the shooting of the protagonist’s other self, named “Tyler Durden”, by the protagonist, who thus not only tries to recover himself, but also wants to undo the work of his dissociative identity disorder in the real world. What he does not succeed in doing, however. In Fight Club, David Fincher shows above all the confrontation with one’s own self and the repercussions of the individual in society on the basis of subconscious processes. Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
In contrast, the film “Billy Elliot – I Will Dance” (Stephen Daldry, UK 2000) presents a “coming of age” story that critically examines and questions traditional gender roles. Against the wishes of his working-class family, 11-year-old Billy Elliot wants to pursue his desire to become a ballet dancer. The film deals with questions of gender identity and social role models. Taking into account the social environment, the film deals with growing up as such, but also with the search for career and life perspectives. With his love of dance, Billy breaks through the predominant experience of his family in the film and asserts himself against classic gender roles. He gains his own identity through the courage of the teenager who confronts his traditionalist father.
In its thematic program, Monstrale 2021 will bring those films to light and put up for discussion that do not reproduce Western identity and stereotypical gender roles, as briefly mentioned here. Above all, it embarks on a search for the special identity-forming moments of film narration, which experience their own expression in short film in particular. In the sense of the film examples mentioned here, the festival presents cinematic positions in which the experience of exclusion, of finding identity, or of self-development are lived through in the supposed chaos of an overly structured society.