The authors of the film have on theor account quite popular film productions, icluding music videos, some of them also knew the main character well, thanks to what they could create an insightful, intimate and original work. Self-portrait is one of those films that captivate the viewer from the very beginning – to stay with him. It is a perfect example of the realistic cinema, which can be proud of its authenticity and aesthetic vision. “Thrilling and timely, brave and emotional – this impressive documentary is a film about illness and art, where the photography can change our vision of life”, wrote the jury in their verdict.
In addition, the film was recommended by the Krakow Film Festival to the European Film Award in the documentary film category. Self-portrait, directed by Margreth Olin, Katja Hogset and Espen Wallin, is a moving study of the fear of growing up and death, and at the same time a shocking picture of self-destruction. We meet Lene Marie Fossen, who has been suffering from anorexia since the age of ten, at the turn of her 30-ties and at the threshold of a great career. In the film, we follow the last years of her life and discover her story, which in Norway has long been known from the headlines of newspapers alarming that at the age of eleven Lene Marie weighed 26 kilograms only. For years, the young woman has been feeding herself only on drinks, she confesses that she has always wished to stop the time, and perhaps that is why her body stopped developing, and she herself took up photography, that is the recording of moments. He takes brilliant photos that are appreciated by the most outstanding photographers and art curators, that move and bring the viewers to tears.
On the screen, we can observe her work, her professional and private conversations. But although Lene Marie does not want to become an icon of anorexia, and wants to make herself known as she is, her art is an important voice in social debate. She is the author of fantastic portraits (including children of refugees), but above all of the shocking self-portraits, exposing, in the shaded spaces of abandoned buildings, her body, devastated by the disease and terrifyingly thin, that brings dramatic associations with juvenile victims of famines or concentration camps. Lene Marie wants to be a photographer, but she also has other dreams, like the one of her own house on the beloved Greek island. She is loved by her parents, she has friends, paradoxically, she was endowed with a strong will to live. However, she cannot recover, she has never reached puberty, and as a result of the prolonged malnutrition, her eyesight – so important in the photographer’s profession – begins to deteriorate, and every challenge of the everyday life seems to overwhelm her, little by little. Lene Marie fights with herself, one day, she plans another exhibition or trip to Greece, the other, she lies down in the snow in her underwear, and tries to freeze.
The dark tale of the Norwegian artist is illuminated by the subtle melodies of Susanne Sundfør, supported by her delicate vocal, which allow to convey the longing and melancholy of the film heroine, and the Scandinavian atmosphere in which she grew up. Thanks to this, we understand more and more of the tragedy that affected the very sensitive Lene Marie and her parents, who, despite their constant efforts, could never help her overcome her illness. They could only admire the photos that were testifying her unique talent, and which perhaps would not have arisen had it not been for the pain their daughter lived every day. In a way, Lene Marie started to be afraid of parting with her disorder, because it became a tool of her artistic expression, of a well-known and invariable way of life, even if leading to the final failure of her body. And probably after the screening of the film, we could just remain in the mood of nostalgia, dazzled by the photos that will inevitably be remembered, enriched also by the important testimony of a photographer suffering from anorexia.
But there is something more above all that. A photo that Lene Marie Fossen could never take, the photo which was taken when she was a child. It shows a beautiful, joyful, healthy girl, little Lene Marie. And having this photo in our eyes, we can only feel powerless anger, that one day Lene Marie would start throwing potatoes at her mother, and that she would have never managed to control her disorder, and that in the long run, nobody was able to reach out to her before it was too late. Yes, Lene Marie Fossen was a great photographer and maybe this was the role she was to play in the world of art, bearing, at the same time, a great sacrifice, struggling with the sky-high suffering and finally passing away at a young age. But for me, she will remain a wonderful child who lost the way to her own future. And I hope that we will never find an excuse for her tragic fate, and at the same time, we will always listen to her recorded confidences with kindness and without judgement, with our eyes fixed on her photographies.
(Maja Baczyńska, translated by Władysław Rokiciński)
Polish version HERE