Viikko Vanessana – Week as Vanessa

Country of Production: Finland
Year of Production: 2011
Running time: 60min
Language of dialogue: Finnish, English
Synopsis: In 2009 I participated in a project by the collective Kettu 2000. In the project the members of the group- myself, Emma Suominen and Vanessa Virmajoki. exchanged our lives with each other for a week. We exchanged everything from families and friends to apartments and hobbies. For the week I left my life in Helsinki for Emma and lived as Vanessa in London. I documented the week by photographs, video and diary. A Week As Vanessa tells my story of my week as another.
Cast: Pinja Sormunen, Lola Clavo, Hugo Larrinaga, Naroa Lizar, Erno Peltonen, Adam Rowe, Carmel Reeves, George Roll, Mikko Virmajoki.
Director: Pinja Sormunen.

Screening time: SATURDAY, 9 July, Bór Zapilski 16:30-18:30 (Screening E)

Screening E, all films:

Jirafas, Spain, 6min
Caruso Inverso, Austria/Brazil, 6min
Area Global, Argentina/Austria/Greece/Switzerland, 33min
Viikko Vanessana – Week as Vanessa, Finland, 60min

Being in the Bubble (Review)

The film ”Viikko Vanessana” is constructed as a diary of Pinja Sormunen and her experience as another person, Vanessa, in London for one week. The idea itself actually ringed a bell immediately: isn’t there a reality TV show where they do the exact same thing? During the film I was trying to think what is the difference of a reality TV show and this film. What makes it different except nice shots and use of still footage and less drama and more inner thoughts?

The film starts slowly when Pinja is trying to get used to being Vanessa. Wearing her clothes, talking to her flatmates and not wearing make up. Some of the problems that Pinja tells seems minor and even ridiculous like that she has wrong kind of shampoo and her hear is greasy all the time. Does not seem like the end of the world or even very relevant to her experience. She can’t find her self around and she doesn’t want to disappoint Vanessa’s, or as she is suppose to think, her friends. The voice over tells about awkward moments and the feeling of being scared of leaving the house and about the obligation to do the things Vanessa has listed her to do, but the visual doesn’t match the feelings of the voice over especially when Pinja as Vanessa goes and meet her friends and instead of hearing a voice over who explains how awkward the situation was as a viewer you are hoping to see and hear these moments as they were. Much more effective would be to show the silence than explaining that there was a silence.

The director has made a clear choice of telling her experience and using the voice over to read the experience day by day. The problem is that it doesn’t leave space to the actual experience. Maybe this was a choice made to avoid the feeling of a cheap reality TV, but instead it creates a gap between the pictures and the feelings. You hear all these emotions through the voice over, but what you see are pretty pictures of a apartment, quite relaxed looking breakfast and nice street views of London, like from any visit to a friends house in London. It makes the situations over explained and leaves the feeling that I would like to see it myself. Also the endless talk about emotions of being afraid and uncomfortable just becomes repetition after while as it seems the most natural reaction to a situation of being someone else and being taken from your own surroundings and comfort zone.

The idea of being someone else for a week is actually something that many young people experience in their lives as not an as extreme of having someone else’s facebook and a boyfriend, but many of us get the chance to live in different kind of, as I like to call them, bubbles as going from exchange student to workshops and trainings where a short and limited period of time you are allowed or forced to be in a different role and you are taken from your comfort zone. The beginning is always slow and the like Pinja you slowly get used to existing in this other universe of your life and you are not really sure who you are and like Pinja realizes in the end of the film although the bubble of being Vanessa will end after one week Pinja has been there as well as and will take the bubble with her as an experience. Vanessa’s friends will also be Pinja’s friends after the bubble. So in this sense the experiment of being someone else does not really difference from more regular bubbles. All bubbles have pretty much the same structure that is why it would interesting to see the specific content of this bubble, this experience and all the people who were effected by the bubble.

The most interesting part on story wise is towards the end of the film when Pinja returns home and has to face the feeling of being placed by someone else. Again there is only the voice over telling this and the image is only the dark streets of Helsinki. The nice part of this last bit is the honesty of Pinja and how openly she tells about being jealous about Emma being her and taking Pinja’s place in her own life. This is the first time when I feel that listening the voice over is enough.

In the end of the film it is the first time when Pinja talks straight to the camera as her self and introduces the other participants of the project as well. Now she is her self and it almost feels like now she is allowed to talk to the camera, but the feeling is she could have been doing that the whole time and it would have been even more effective to see the change. It doesn’t make it cheap or reality TV, it makes it more honest and of course even more scary as if you let the camera roll and just see what happens you take a risk, but wasn’t that the whole purpose of this project: to take a risk, to jump, to live in a bubble and go back and see what’s left. Showing the experience would not make it cheap or reality TV.

Hetta Huhtamäki