Searching Eva by Pia Hellenthal - Fragments 2019
Monday 10 June 2019, by ,
Searching Eva does not use titular character, Eva Collé, as a metaphor for Generation Z taken for granted intersectionality and ‘always on’ social media. Eva’s identity laundry list and reluctance to ‘be’ a gender, culture or nationality is simply context. Its probe into her life through social media posts and vignettes is simply the setup. The true offering of this documentary is its reflection on perception and presentation. In the age of social media, whose domination isn’t limited to just one generation, what does this mean for our fragmented selves and how do we project our resulting fears and anxieties on to others?
Today we ‘connect’ with people, often instead of or prior to meeting, and Pia Hellenthal introduces the audience to Eva in a similar fashion. The opening scene begins with her followers responding to the first of several provocative blog posts. We then see her IRL and, within the first five minutes, we are shown a lover, friends, and beind-the-scenes modelling—as if we, too, are followers. Hellenthal uses vignettes to tell the stories behind the posts, and the natural dialogue helps us to feel an intimacy with the subject as we take this voyeuristic tour. However, it is up to us to provide the meaning.
As Eva performs, hangs out with friends, and visits family, we see that she puts serious work into how she’s seen. Her hair, mannerisms, and posture rely on the demands of the situation. In one telling scene, the normally uninhibited Eva plays with her younger brother whilst he’s sitting on her lap. She’s seemingly at peace blending into the background and nurturing her young charge in that moment. The general malaise of her posts are nearly forgotten; and there is almost no trace of the coquettish sex worker posing for pictures.
However, these scenes are not shown to be contradictory representations nor to disrupt our notions about who Eva, a drifting, cosmopolitan, feminist, drug addict, is. Instead this is a way to bring in the audience as a central piece of the story. We are invited to understand her logic of forgetting the past and creating the present to form your own path. Eva rejects cultural identities or telling stories in narrative form, as this creates a past and, in some ways, relives it. Instead, she is in a state of constantly recreating the story. Moment to moment. Blogging is an ideal expression for this kind of self, but for those of us who feel we’re part of communities and in relationships, this can feel unnerving and leave us searching for Eva’s purpose, to find out what happens next, and trying to understand what made her this way (as many of her commentators do).
Yet, this film provides an alternative to experience a lifestyle that can only be expressed through clips and monologues, and to move beyond social media celebrity caricatures.