Andrea Arnold

A flyer for an audition is all that teenage Mia has. Expelled from school for aggressive behaviour and not taken seriously by her single mother, she clings to her dream of becoming a dancer. Hollywood would turn this into pure kitsch: from the gutter to the stage. British filmmaker Andrea Arnold, however, sketches a portrait of the working class that is both sensitive and unvarnished. In her second feature film, ›Fish Tank‹ (2009), she explores the aspirations of a 15-year-old girl without putting them on display.

Arnold emphasises that she tells stories taken from real life. She herself comes from a working-class family. She started her career in television and then studied film in Los Angeles. She shot the Oscar-winning short film ›Wasps‹ (2003) in her home town of Dartford in Kent. Never bleak, but always realistic, are the environments in which her characters are firmly rooted: the high-rise complex in ›Red Road‹ (2006), the high plains of Yorkshire in her adaptation of Emily Brontë’s ›Wuthering Heights‹ (2011) and the American highways in ›American Honey‹ (2016) — the quintessential setting for cinematic longing and for Star, the young protagonist, possibly the route to finding herself. Even the cowshed in Arnold’s first documentary, ›Cow‹ (2021, screening in the PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES section), is the setting of one of her intimate portraits, which invariably demand that space be given to female perspectives.
In the tradition of British social dramas, Arnold shines the spotlight on these outsiders. She weaves youth culture, from DJ Ötzi to gangsta rap, into their coming-of-age stories, turning them into time capsules of their own pop-poetic social realism. Like Mia, her female characters dance on the thin line between hopelessness and self-confidence. They greedily absorb every spark of a zest for life, always looking for room to manoeuvre. “Life’s a bitch and then you die” blares from Mia’s ghetto blaster, yet she finds her own way out.

© Rankin

Masterclass Andrea Arnold
moderated by Julia Teichmann
on Sunday, 14.11. at 14:15 in the Town Hall N1 (Ratssaal)
in English only