The Souvenir: a cunning script depicting the struggles for females directors

Written by Gunn

The Souvenir is a BFI funded film revolving around the ambitions of a young female director who embarks on a harrowingly emotional and destructive relationship with an older man. It's a film circling on an array of struggles between two lovers set in the 1980s. There is patience needed for the story to unfold, but once unpicked, it reveals an intriguing and simmering drama. However, I want to draw upon the influential speeches and sentences exposed by Julie in the script which fortuitously align with the current struggles women directors are facing in the filming industry today. 

Director Joanna Hogg uses unique digital stocks from the start of her film to explore the characters in the 80’s. Once we have a feel for both characters after they meet at the beginning, the couple start questioning one and others interests in life. Whilst sitting in an elegant English tea room, sipping champagne, they both discuss the enjoyments they receive from watching a movie. Julie talks about her desire to make her feature film, which is based around the workers at the docks, saying, 

"It doesn't matter that they aren't real people. I'm not trying to make a documentary." (Julie, The Souvenir)

Anthony argues back, commenting that it's quite clearly a documentation of their daily grind of work. Her response to this is, 

"Well I am... but I'm creating something new with it. I am designing new ones to fit what I want to make." (Julie, The Souvenir)

This could be seen as an interesting representation of the peripheral view on women directors seen through the male superiors in the filming industry today. Women directors are still, today, struggling to create movies, only taking 33% of the titles last year. These figures have been explored in more detail in documentaries like, ‘This Changes Everything’ (2019) and the absurd notion and fear from studio superiors that females don't have the capability to direct a Hollywood blockbuster as good as men. This is reflected in the film as Anthony mocks her ability to come up with a ‘new’ feature, instead saying she has 'some' talents, but only to merely create a documentary of real people's lives. 

Again, we see some key themes at Julie's apartment, as they both sit side by side whilst she talks through her reasons for making movies, 

'I don't feel I realise the quality of entertainment, but I realise the importance of entertaining people to get a message across. I hope to learn and entertainment as well as communicate."  (Julie, The Souvenir)


 

Anthony replies, 

"Do you think that makes you special?" he then goes on to say, "We can all be sincere, we can all be authentic, but what's it all for?." (Anthony, The Souvenir)

This was a powerful scene and draws on the influx of indie films directed by women over the last few years, most of which have communicated important messages across our world. Take System Crasher (2020), a film looking at orphaned children in Germany, and Capernaum (2018), a movie conveying child labour in Lebanon. These are both two women directors, Nora and Nadine, similar to Julie who want to show the world important messages in their films. Anthony's response of 'what's it's all for' shows the male view, who are regularly churning out happy, entertaining, money making movies for the industry. 

​Later on in the film, a character Patrick comes to Julie's for a dinner party and sheds advice on his times studying at film school,

"It was the cheapest camera hire place in the world. They don't lock the store cupboard. I made two features while I was there for no money...you have to listen to a lot of people who think they know about film, it's like telling people how to think, how to breathe. And there are no rules." (Patrick, The Souvenir)

As a male, Patrick was allowed to have freedom in making his films, which is a representation of male directors in our society today. Men directors dominate the Oscars awards, making films across a range of genres, having the freedom, the budget, the production to create their creative worlds on screen. Whereas female directors are still struggling to come out of the woodworks with their scripts and ideas. 

​The script of The Souvenir conveys some important jingoistic themes, drawing on issues of loneliness, drug abuse, and young love. However, I felt Joanna Hogg cleverly gave the characters some wise words in the films to voice the struggle of women directors against the male dominated industry, who, alongside her, are passionately trying to direct their own dream feature in our society today. 

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