Interview with Ivona Juka for Santa Barbara Independent
Following three daughters in the pursuit of happiness and reconciliation with their fathers, the Croatian-made drama You Carry Me confronts loss and desire at their highest stakes. This subtle, non-linear film explores uncensored family relationships, moving seamlessly between memories, dreams, and reality.
What inspired the making of You Carry Me?
I was inspired by the need of human beings to be loved the way they are. We all want to be loved, but we also want to change others and refuse to change ourselves.
Since I’ve had a very close and deep relationship with my own father, I’ve decided to make a film about daughter-father relationships. I’ve decided upon a triptych: three stories about three daughters of different ages, statuses, and family backgrounds and their relationships with their fathers, in order to show more than one intimate relationship and cover a wider range of such relationships.
One daughter starts to build a relationship with her father; another daughter irretrievably loses her established relationship with her father; a third confronts her broken relationship with her dad in order to accept her future. All three carry their fathers, yet they need them in order to confront themselves.
Daughters in this story are strong personalities with many flaws, limitations, fears, and defeats — daring to deal with their own mistakes and transformations. This story is about anti-heroines who don’t have any illusions about themselves. They never give up on dreams of a better future and they never surrender. They are moving forward.
What is the role of addiction in this film?
Addiction is always a means of escaping reality. I’m glad you’ve noticed that problem, and I hope you are not speaking of drugs as the only form of addiction in the film. While some of the characters literally take drugs in order to find courage to face reality, some other characters are addicted in a different way, and their addiction is their escape from reality, their refusal to face the real problem.
However, the addictions in this film are neither unequivocal nor permanent. The protagonists reach certain realizations and their addictions serve as a crutch to rely upon until a certain moment. Those protagonists who abandon that crutch and face themselves — that is, see themselves as they really are and realize they must change — have a happy end. Those who remain arrogantly entrapped in their own self-sufficiency, those who are fleeing from reality and from facing themselves — those protagonists do not have a happy end. This film is about the redemption (from ego), about compassion and forgiveness, about accepting others the way they are.
Why have the characters’ lives connected by a TVproduction company?
The protagonists of this story are directly or indirectly connected with a production company, which is making an imaginary world, a TV series called “Prisoners of Happiness.” Each of them is in his or her own way a “prisoner of happiness” because they are searching for happiness, not for joy. Happiness is elusive, but joy isn’t. When they discover joy, they are no longer prisoners. They free themselves.
What is the significance of rocks as dream motifs?
A rock can be a barrier, but a rock can be a building rock. The motif of rocks is somewhere between real and surreal, on the verge between subconscious and conscious. It is a symbol and the real rock at the same time.
For example, Ives meets with pebbles placed at the front door of her apartment. The symbolism is clear; she is trapped, there is no way out for her. It is a surreal interpretation of rocks, but at the same time, the rocks could have been heaped by her father.
When I researched different kinds of dementia, especially Alzheimer’s, I found stories about the need of the diseased to perform some odd, often childish, but also incredible deeds. For example, an old man with Alzheimer’s would during the night collect the chairs from the houses of his unsuspecting neighbors, and his next to kin would wake up surrounded by unfamiliar chairs from all around the village. Therefore, the wall of pebbles at Ives’s door could be something built by her father, but at the same time it symbolizes an obstacle for her.
Admittedly, rocks are an interesting motif, because of all us have the opportunity to “build” when faced with an obstacle. As I said at the beginning, a stone is an obstacle, but it is a building stone as well.
Do important sentiments get lost in translation between Croatian and English subtitles?
I was afraid that important parts of the film would get lost in translation from Croatian to English, but those fears were dispersed after my first encounter with American viewers. After the closed screening in Los Angeles for the people from the industry, the viewers came to us saying that after fifteen minutes of the film they completely forgot they were watching a film with subtitles. I was totally delighted. They said they had the feeling they understood what actors were saying. In other words, they were totally into the story and the fact that the film was coming from Europe was of no importance. For me as a director, it was the greatest compliment I could get, because I still remember certain foreign films which have left an indelible imprint on me regardless of the language they were filmed in.