Tiger Talk #6 - Metahaven

The Dutch directors Vinca Kruk (1980) and Daniel van der Velden (1971) of the film Possessed discuss social media behaviour, a generation gap and how we can all be saved. 

People who post pictures of their spaghetti dish on Instagram. Very obnoxious. Does everyone really have to know everything about you? The directors of Possessed disagree: they declare their solidarity with internet polluters.

Van der Velden thinks there are underlying reasons why people would think of taking photos of their food. “It has to do with the uncertainty of existence. There is some kind of despair. You could also be in a position where you have nothing to eat, so this person shows the world that he or she does have something on their plate.” 

“Vloggers earn their money by posting a lot of stuff online. Everything they do has to be visible. The result is kind of a vicious circle, where they have to post new things all the time.” 

The spaghetti dish is one of many social media images used in Possessed, the film Kruk and Van der Velden (as Metahaven) made in cooperation with the experienced Dutch filmmaker Rob Schröder, who directed, amongst others, Ouwehoeren (2011).

Also, Possessed shows an apocalyptic perspective on the world. A world in which people applaud a collapsing iceberg. One man laughs out loud. It’s an absurd montage, Kruk explains, about climate change and entertainment.

“This is the perspective of an older generation that polluted our planet, people who go on a cruise to see and experience the melting icebergs themselves. Experiences have become very important.”

Nevertheless, these older people are more sincere than younger generations, the filmmakers suggest. “Youth always have their camera on. They are being shaped by the eye of the camera that is always there. Our parents don’t care so much about being seen.”

How our faces have changed

The device did one thing really well

It made us always smile

  • Still: Possessed

The movie was partly filmed in Croatia, on an abandoned airfield surrounded by mountains. Kruk: “We were searching for an empty airport. First, we thought about a landing strip in Spain, but it had already been purchased by some Chinese folks.”

Eventually they found an old military airport in Croatia where warplanes had been hidden in a mountain. The planes had to exit through an opening in the rock face. It was like a bunker inside a mountain. An interesting place to shoot.

The filmmakers delved into the archives and did their research. They discovered an empty school on the border of Croatia and Slovenia. The floor was covered with books from a communist past. “Our actress Olivia Lonsdale walked into that room and literally faced a forgotten past.” 

Their reference to communism was part of the plan for the film, says Van der Velden. “We were searching for an answer to the smartphone. Possessed is not a propaganda film for communism. But it’s about togetherness, about collectivity.”

We have been studying the relationship between the Internet and politics for years, how global technological infrastructure has become a breeding ground for propaganda.” – Daniël van der Velden of Metahaven

Schröder, Kruk and Van der Velden all share a background in graphic design. Metahaven makes movies and installations. In the past years, they started working more and more with moving images.

They shot the documentary The Sprawl (Propaganda About Propaganda), about the misinformation war between Russia and Ukraine (IFFR, 2016). Van der Velden: “We have been studying the relationship between the Internet and politics for years, how global technological infrastructure has become a breeding ground for propaganda.”

“We don’t just want to be moralistic, we also have to realise the benefits of technology. It has become a part of our lives. We have become one, so much so that we are now possessed.” 

Completely unexpected
The Hivos Tiger Award nomination for Possessed is a big honour. “Completely unexpected”, Kruk says. “Because on so many levels this film is not what you would expect. It’s somewhere in between a documentary and an essay. It touches, in a visual complex way, a subject that concerns us all. It’s a film about thinking, about feeling.”

“We believe the essay film could have a place in the heart of modern cinema. This nomination is absolutely a plea for that. But, of course, we also hope that the IFFR audience simply appreciates our film.”

Photo in header: Interview: Sophie van Leeuwen & Pieter-Bas van Wiechen