4 Generations Women – water reflections

Reflections on 4 Generations filming
with Paula Onet
Chvalkov, August 2018

This year I have been joined here in the countryside by Paula Onet, an independent filmmaker who is working with me as well as another woman (a journalist), on the ambitious 4GenWomen project, which aims to explore the complex web of relationships between women across generations and different cultures, through ritual, conversation and observation. Paula has found me through the internet, yet our connection is very real, profound through the depth of the subject we are both passionate about. Together, we use concepts such as psychogenealogy, to try and unpick some of these complexities, while celebrating the moments we, the 4 generations of women, all come together.

This year the theme that has emerged is water. The idea begun with me thinking of a comment a journalist expressed in her write up about my work in Cinepur magazine (July issue, 118), about the reoccurring theme of water in my work. At the same time, I have been conscious of the reality of my new unborn daughter (another 4th generation in making!), submerged in amniotic fluid, reminding me that we all emerge from a liquid state of dreaming. In fact very recently I came across a National Geographic article where it has been mentioned that apparently a foetus from about 26th week of gestation, for about a month, exists in a state similar to REM sleep, “the equivalent of the brain testing its software, preparing to come fully on line”, a suspended dream state which, I imagine, informs the rest of one’s life, on the most profound yet unconscious level.

Yet again I am reminded that water is the conductive medium of dreams and we encounter it time and time again, at different stages of our lives, as a form of initiation, a way of cleansing and purification, in dreams, as well as in more sinister forms. And of course in Jung’s philosophy, as the symbol of the unconscious.

In my own family, Catholic religion has only been seen as a formality (as in the case of my grandmother, born in 1925), and later, in the communist days, a form of rebellion against the established order, which surpressed religion, seeing it as the enemy. This is why I have been baptised, in 1975.

Psychogenealogy talks

During our conversation on camera, inspired by ideas of psychogenealogy (where various patterns of behaviour are transmitted across generation), some other interesting water connections emerged. My grandmother told us that on her mother’s side (the female lineage again!), her mother’s mother drowned herself, triggered by an encounter with her eldest daughter. She did so in a lake near Castle Kozel, an estate where she spent her childhood. Her body has been found by the sparkle of her ring in the lake’s water. Some years on, the daughter she had her argument with, lost her son to drowning, also a suicide. And on my grandmother’s father’s side, her grandmother mother tried to drown herself and her two children. She took them to the river but was spotted and later put in an asylum.

All these water themes made me wonder whether there is an unconscious link to my own recent film project, the drowning of Ophelia, in a project entitled Ophelia’s Last Supper.

Reflections: Rybnik Tata, 5th August
One of the ideas Paula and I had for our filming, was to take the four generations to a nearby pond, to see what happens when our family are close to the element of water. We sat on the edge of the lake, talking of various experiences of water, mainly connected to our experience of swimming.

Later, following my mother who took the initial step, I too decided to immerse myself in the waters, while the outside air was already cooling in the evening sun. As I walked deeper, I was surprised by the deep pleasure of feeling the warm water on my skin, and soon the fabric touching gently my skin, light and floaty, rather than weighty. Finally, fully submerged, I decided to lay on water. With my body supported by the water’s mass, I found myself suspended in time and space, weightless, with the boundary between myself and the water dissolved, feeling borderless, spilling into the landscape around and above. With my ears under the water, I experienced the most profound moment of peace and silence, the perfect moment of solitude.

Images are stills from film footage by Tereza Stehlikova, Paula Onet, Anna Wozencroft, Petra Stehlikova, August 2018, Chvalkov, Southern Bohemia

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