Woman as a Theme

The Rare Phenomenon
Of A Fullfilled Woman...


An essay from 2016 where Cilla Back discusses and reflects on the significance of female characters in her work. Excerpts have been published in various articles and presentations of her productions.

Women are “variopinto”

As a director I see in female characters an infinitely rich well of material.

Women, in general can be described with the Italian word “variopinto”.

They have undergone a massive metamorphose in the last century and I believe this change, this "rebirth" has come with a price – in suffering, in loss of identity, in an endless quest of ambitions and demands to come to terms with.

While it undoubtedly is a good thing as well – as an artist I am interested in exploring the dark side of it – the hurt locker women get entangled in, the inner labyrinth of melancholy, rage, emptiness and destruction…

The modern woman is a chameleons, forever changing skin, content, role.
She finds herself an object of continuous projections and expectations that are often contradictory – it is not only her surrounding that creates them, but also she herself. Like a matryoshka doll, it seems there’s always a "new" woman embodied in the previous.

The duplicity of the roles in a woman's life is as enriching as it is intoxicating – it easily mutates from freedom to deformation. The expectations on women – the society, our culture and women themselves create – are huge.

The women I tell about are victims of this pressure, this loss of the "self". Though the setting and the singular stories change, the pain, the perversion, the bewilderment is the same – the brutal annihilation these women either initiate themselves or fall victim to.

I don’t feel that the women are my theme only as “representative” of a gender, it’s more accurate to say I am interested in studying and exploring the Collective, the Society, through female characters.

Characters as Hedda Gabler (Ibsen), Yerma (Lorca), Lulu (Wedekind), Else (Schnitzler), Yvonne (Gombrowicz), Julie (Strindberg), are strikingly relevant today - it's only the outer "frame" that has changed - the substance, the inner conflicts they carry is now even more acute. Why?

Because emancipation has created a more subtle, a more complex form of suppression: it’s harder to fight because it’s harder to detect – it's much less obvious now – it‘s concealed, invisible to the “naked eye”. In today's society aren't women "free as birds" to do and be what they want? Suppression is pushed deep in the hidden layers, where it cannot be "pinpointed", it's the modern tabu – I am fascinated to work in those "hidden layers" and these charcters represent exactly what I want to shed light on with my work.

Their inner “wound” has become unrestrainable, too raging, too “loud” to be kept a bay – they stop being "pretty", "nice", "motherly", ”nurturing”, “attractive”, “manageable”. While their implosion is disastrous, it at the same time unveils the underlying power structures and hypocrisy in the society.

Through these characters we understand how women are perceived – how they get "cast in mold" by others and themselves – how they are manipulated into being in a certain way.

I think the female psyche is a kind of human “sieve”, it collects and picks up information of how society and collectives function – how identification gets distorted, how the sense of "self" gets lost and how we quietly adapt to the “silent rules” of how we are supposed be and actually stop seeing ourselves. You might say that women are the perfect “vehicle” to reach the unconscious, hidden layer of the society – the implicit, latent system deep beneath.

Froken Else

A happy woman is a rare phenomenon…


I am often asked about this headline of an interview with the Baseler Zeitung.

What I wanted to say is that the female psyche is complex; it's a subtle apparatus that catches the slightest vibration, reflects the faintest light. Every touch, word, glance, blow is absorbed deep inside where it sediments and starts moulding love, sexuality, affection, motherhood.

Director Ingmar Bergman was a master in interpreting this female abyss.

I think that at the same time as women possess a tremendous inborn power and often prove to be resilient, enduring – intimately they harbour a specific vulnerability – the tendency to transfer and project disorders and negative experiences irreparably into the very depth of their emotional life. With time it evolves to the “language of the body” and starts to define their urges and drives, how they feel in their skin, how their sexuality manifests itself.

Womens bodies and their sexuality easily became like a “carnal diary”

A woman’s body, her sexuality very easily turns into a “carnal diary” that she painfully writes with her own blood about her life, her trauma. This can be devastating…

As an example, I could mention characters like:

Lulu – seductiveness and sexual power that turns to perversion and destruction; Julie – the dissident and proud “half woman, half man” who ends up with commiting sucide; Yerma – the aching, maternal instinct that turns into a raging killing instinct; Hedda Gabler – stamina, brightness, allure that finds expression only in a game of Thanatos.

Yerma

As an example, I could mention characters like:

Lulu – seductiveness and sexual power that turns to perversion and destruction; Julie – the dissident and proud “half woman, half man” who ends up with commiting sucide; Yerma – the aching, maternal instinct that turns into a raging killing instinct; Hedda Gabler – stamina, brightness, allure that finds expression only in a game of Thanatos.

© 2017 Cilla Back. Powered by Open Mind Service

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