"Ballet films are usually horror films," says the successful Israeli-Dutch director Dana Nehushtan "and I understand very well why. Classical dancers act out of fear. All day long you look at yourself in the mirror. At any moment you can be replaced by someone prettier or thinner. Psychologically it is a threat. A real nightmare. But from the outside it's beautiful."
Nehushtan Nehushtan 's new film "Something of Me," which deals with the brave friendship that develops between Olga and Irma, two young and competitive classical dancers in Amsterdam in the 1970s, also has elements of horror. But at its core, it's a sad drama about loss of control and self-destruction. Olga, the more talented of the two, achieves great success on stage, overwhelmed by the pressure and swept up in a whirlwind of drugs and eating disorders. Irma, for her part, does her best to help her friend stop the fall.
"This is a film about destructive talent and female friendship," says Nehushtan (52), who was born in Afula to a Dutch mother and an Israeli father, and spent her childhood on Kibbutz Yizreel before moving to the Netherlands with her mother.
"It couldn't have been a horror movie, because our film had to have a heart. It's a film about someone who has too much to give in this world. Someone who burns too hard. The original plan was to make a biographical drama inspired by a real ballerina known in Holland, but in the process we realized that the story would be more universal and interesting if we opened it and saw the events through the eyes of her friend.
Something of Me | Piece of My Heart
"Almost every one of us knew someone like that, whether it was a friend or a family member. Someone for whom things obviously won't end well. Someone who won't accept your help. In such a situation you can't force, you have to let go and understand that you can only be there with him until the end. It's the ultimate friendship."
In a brave and unusual move, Nehushtan decided early on in the project to cast two dancers with no previous acting experience in the lead roles. "Even in 'Black Swan,' which is a film about dance that I really like," she says, "doubles are used in the dance sequences. I didn't want that. I didn't want to be limited in my options. You immediately see if someone is a dancer or not. We found Elaine Majrick and Ross Engelbart, whom we cast at the end, very quickly."
How did you prepare them for the shoot?
"The biggest difference between dance and acting is that the dance has to be perfect on the outside. In ballet especially, you're not supposed to show emotions or show your inner self. In the game versus this, everything is internal. Elaine and Ross worked for months to get to these places and show what's inside. Because they were accustomed to showing only the exterior. I think they did a great job."
Who do you identify with more? Olga or Irma?
"In a way, I feel more Olga. I empathize with her and her pain and her dream. But I'm also completely Irma, who always wants to help and who will always be there when she is needed."
Nehushtan has directed several popular series in the Netherlands – including a crime comedy series called "Hollands hoop", which was defined as the Dutch version of "Breaking Bad" – but "Something of Me" is her first film to be screened in Israeli cinemas.
"It's bitter and sweet," she says of her private closure. "Because my father passed away six months ago. He was ninety, but it would have been nice if he got to see it. I hope that the Israeli audience will like the film. It touches my heart that it is screened in Israel. I'm sorry I can't be there."
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