#TIFF2019; #Anorexia; #AllegoricalRepresentationOfEatingDisorder
The film ‘It’s Nothing’ describes the internal exploration of eating disorders or Anorexia represented by a hole the protagonist spends her time digging in secret. She goes about her life covered in dirt. People don’t know how to address it or, more often, pretend not to see it at all. Asha Bajaj, IBNS Canada Special Correspondent and, Editor of Canadian Media, brings together Anna Maguire, the director of the film “It’s Nothing”, and Screenwriter Julia Lederer to speak on rarely talked about subject of Anorexia.
Trailer of It's Nothing
Anna, in the film “It’s Nothing” you have discussed the internal exploration of eating disorders. What motivated you to discuss this topic? Is there any personal connection?
I met Julia in 2014 through a friend. Julia had originally written a play for young adults; about a young woman digging a hole under the influence of a friend, which stood in as a metaphor for anorexia, which Julia had herself experienced and wanted me to film it.
Yes, I have personal connection to this eating disorder. It is something I had experienced and really struggled to explain and understand. It is partially driven by emotions and it is something irrational and I felt the best way to express it is through a metaphor. Then when Julia approached me with this book I felt that we should bring awareness of this disorder in some rational and motivated us to film about the eating disorder through a metaphor.
What motivated you to represent eating disorder or Anorexia by a hole the protagonist spends her time digging in secret?
When this eating disorder starts, it takes time to develop. It starts as a hole in your body and your find comfort in it and feel safe but as you go deeper and deeper you feel isolated. This hole symbolizes a representation of the protagonist’s eating disorder. The protagonist who is shown to dig a hole in secret is again an illusion representing that the protagonist’s addiction to eating disorder is increasing. The protagonist does not have control over this. Something about the hole is scary as well. It is like a trap into which you fall and you go deeper and deeper without realizing. You feel comforted and safe for not having to face the negativity of the world and its unacceptance. But the hole is also scary since it isolates you from the whole world, cuts you off from help from the outside help. It is something which I had experienced.
The protagonist is forced by one of her friends to dig deeper and deeper until it leads to her downfall represented by the rejection of her application for further studies. Why is the protagonist shown to be pressurised by her friend? What does this act signify?
Well, it is not a friend. It is metaphorical representation of an eating disorder; kind of illusion terrifying and as well as comforting. It is comforting because the protagonist had been driven by her mental disorder of eating and feels safe in her company. It is a way of coping with the difficulties as well as coping with the world who has rejected her. The act when the protagonist is pushed into a deep dig represents her own mental disorder and her impulsive eating disorder over which she loses control. Unable to recover from her addiction she tries to find safety and comfort in a hole. It is a form of escaping from the disapproval of the world. Mere advice to recover from addiction sometimes does not work.
Image: Credit of TIFF
In this film, you have tried to explain the complicated logic of an eating disorder and its connection to mental health. What made you portray an eating disorder in this specific way? What message is conveyed by this?
It is something what I felt, what I myself had experienced. It is something very honest but difficult to explain. It is also an emotional thing because people suffering for this eating disorder find it difficult to express it to the world for fear of being rejected. They are also unaware that have a mental disorder. I have used the image of a hole as a metaphoric explanation of the eating disorder. It also rationalizes the protagonist’s illusion of a friend, which, in fact is the mental disorder, in which one finds safety. The message conveyed by this is that when you start the recovery process, you fear to lose the visual representation of a friend and start feeling unsafe. People suffering from anorexia are afraid to speak about their illness. Many times they are not aware of their mental illness. These people should be encouraged to speak about their illness, be honest about it and let the person know that there is nothing wrong about it. The recovery is a very slow process and requires lot of understanding from the world.
The protagonist pushed by her so-called friend to the bottom of the dig and says that she was trying to help her. What was the motive of her illusory friend in pushing her down? What does it symbolize?
There is a voice in the protagonist’s head which starts ruling her other reasonings. It is a paradox, it is my own experience. It is not in her control. She feels if she is outside the hole, she would not fit anywhere. But in the hole, she feels safe. The flip side of that is that we had lots of friends who said that they are afraid of admitting that they have eating disorders.
Once the protagonist is deep into the hole and is truly by herself, there is a moment when she realizes that she has to make a choice and to decide what she has to do. It represents the thought of recovery. The protagonist feels that she needs to come out of the hole. It is the very first stage of the beginning of recovery. This process of recovery is very slow. It is the moment of awakening and you realize that she cannot find safety in the hole. It also means that it is very safe to discuss and acknowledge the symptoms and try to come out of it.
In the film, the protagonist is shown to climb and reach the top. But in reality, the process of climbing and falling down occurs several times until she reaches the top. The process of climbing had taken longer than shown in the film of 2-hour duration. The attempt at climbing is the first step, not the end. The film is about hope, not about the structure.