Jessie Jeffrey Dunn Rovinelli's So Pretty is showing February 24 - March 24, 2020 on MUBI as part of the series Direct from the Berlinale.
So Pretty was a labor of love. I’m speaking not only about the intense care shown to me and the film by the many artists and artisans that worked on our production, but also the means by which the film was constructed. It was an attempt to take love seriously as a means of production, as a method of constructing a world, and as a way to move the camera through a space and through bodies.
I want new ways of relating eyes, skin, camera, lust, and pretty surfaces. If the film is successful, at least in my eyes, it is because I tried to teach myself to take love seriously both as an aesthetic and as structural element of the world. It used to be easy for me to dismiss love as a way to paper over injustice, one that reduced the world to two people. This film, owing to its source material, forced me to find other possibilities within that word, “love,” which felt so alienating to me. This film tries to find another route in.
So Pretty is adapted and translated from a 1980s German novel by the gay communist author Ronald M. Schernikau, who died so young of AIDS. I’ve tried to approach his words with the diligence owed to a work and a person that I respect deeply but cannot meet. It is not a straight adaptation, but a transposition between times, places, and genders. We don’t always “agree,” Ronald and I, but I hope to trace a dialogue of love between our circumstances, where disagreement and dispute can occur under an aesthetic relation of care, much as I trace a dialogue between the characters, their loves, and their art—particularly the lovely music by Rachika S and many other women—and the novel itself. Incidents shift, passages are rewritten, bodies change, but I try to remain faithful to the novel’s subtitle—“A Utopian Film.” A gesture that initially seemed absurd or impossible to me.
When I introduce the film in public, I find myself returning to the same phrase: “The film will drift, it might get lost, but I hope that in those moments you will return to these people’s bodies, how they move, how they dress, how they interact, how they kiss.” It is a film of surfaces, of skin-deep pleasures, it is often “merely pretty,” because it was in those surfaces and those bodies that I could see movement and hope.
It was an accident that I ended up casting myself in this film, unplanned and last-minute, to fill a role. In the end it became a way of inviting my own mutant body into that filmic language of love, and in a small way, it restored my self to me. So Pretty’s bodies suggested to me a way to live and a way to make a film that felt that felt like love. Perhaps you’ll find that here with them too.