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Ginger and Rosa

Sally Potter’s intoxicating coming-of-age drama, set in 1960s London.

Even if a screening is sold out, tickets are often available 30 minutes before the start of the film at the box office at each venue.

Ginger and Rosa

  • Director-Screenwriter Sally Potter
  • Producer Christopher Sheppard, Andrew Litvin
  • With Christina Hendricks, Elle Fanning, Annette Bening
  • UK 2012
  • 89 mins
  • UK distribution Artificial Eye Film Company Ltd

Best friends forever, Ginger (Elle Fanning) and Rosa (newcomer Alice Englert) have grown-up together and are now on the brink of adulthood, strutting their bathtub-shrunk jeans and flaunting their own brand of teenage existentialism. One fears annihilation, the other invites it. Ginger is preoccupied with the Cold War and the mounting threat of nuclear devastation. Rosa is defiant – her revolution is sexual – a form of protest that will irrevocably impact on their families, her future and ultimately, the girls’ friendship. While Sally Potter’s (Orlando; The Tango Lesson) intoxicating coming-of-age drama is historically specific in its 1960s London setting, its relevance to the current era of ill-defined protest and the question of generational legacy is palpable. The left-leaning adults – Ginger’s carefree bohemian father (Alessandro Nivola), her frustrated mother (Christina Hendricks) and her mother’s politically active friends (Annette Bening, Timothy Spall and Oliver Platt) all give lessons on freedom and responsibility that prove flawed and hypocritical when turbulent reality encroaches on idealism. Carlos Conti’s understated design and Robbie Ryan’s (Fish Tank; Wuthering Heights) moody cinematography amplify the sense of claustrophobic intimacy and underscore Potter’s choice to evoke the 60s through mood and sensibility rather than by overt design.
Clare Stewart

Related event: British Films in Focus with Time Out

Director Q&A

What is the story of Ginger and Rosa?

Ginger and Rosa is the story of two girls, best friends, born on the day, perhaps, that the bomb fell on Hiroshima. They were born in London so their entire existence has been shaped by the long shadow cast by that bomb. But they grow up friends in only the way that girls can be – mirroring each other, sharing their secrets, their private worlds, thinking big and interested in the details: hair, clothes, jeans, jumpers. And then comes the rift when Rosa becomes interested in Ginger’s father. And Ginger’s father becomes interested in Rosa. And at that point everything starts to threaten to explode and spiral out of control, deeper and deeper into a world of secrets and obsessions, in parallel with the deepening of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the nuclear arms race, the height of the Cold War – when the world itself is threatening to explode. Through the central character of Ginger, we feel these parallel events unfolding and her parallel path through them – a transition path – into a kind of knowledge that she didn’t have before. [...] The locations I loved the best have ended up not being in the film, which is typical. If you’ve fallen in love with a location too much it means it probably shouldn’t be there. It’s like clothes wearing the man – location starts wearing the scene. There was a sound mirror, a huge wall near Dungeness, that I discovered on the internet and was ecstatic about, and the shot ended up not being in the film. There was an area of waste ground not too far from here in East London that we found, with difficulty. I wanted to find a feeling of this broken down landscape, like a kind of bomb-site, that I remember from my own childhood in London, the post-war landscape before everything was really rebuilt later in the sixties. I was very pleased with the skeleton of a gasworks in the background, fires, and kids running around in rubble. It was trying to find ways of suggesting London in 1962 – not the London that is self consciously period London but rather the world that these girls are inhabiting, what they notice, what they see, what’s important to them, the look of an alleyway, a bit of old bomb-site where they hang out and learn how to smoke cigarettes. The girls’ bedrooms and bathrooms are very important too. So each of the locations really tried to express, or mirror what the girls were seeing but also what these spaces and places meant for the individuals. Some of the interiors are not the kind of interiors that you are particularly used to seeing on film – they’re quite skeletal, quite bare and poor in some instances, but poor for deliberate reasons. [...] The music in this film is in effect the soundtrack to these people’s lives; it’s the music from that period. It is absolutely authentic and I think it expresses some of the things that maybe they can’t express, might love or hear in some ways. A lot of it is also music that I love too. I made the decision, bit by bit, not to have an additional score but rather to have music that people were listening to or what was being played in the background to the scene, not as a rigid rule but as a guiding principle. And then it turned into a kind of rule as well, so there are things that were in the hit parade at the time, but the end of the hit parade that I think is good and enjoyable. And there are things that were more obscure, ranging from Dave Brubeck’s ‘Take Five’ to Thelonious Monk or Django Reinhardt and earlier periods too. Some really good jazz and some of the really good Little Richard, too. [...] The characters talk quite a lot about God or the lack of a God. I think that Hiroshima and the nuclear bomb threw up a lot of God questions for people – could there really be a God that would sanction these kinds of deaths on this kind of scale? I think there’s a lot of themes in there, questions that are not put in as themes but rather arise out of the kind of things that these individuals are thinking about and wrestling with every day of their lives and can sometimes express in words.
Sally Potter

Director biography

Born in London in 1949, she trained as a dancer and choreographer at the London School of Contemporary Dance and later co-founded the Limited Dance Company. She directed her first feature, The Gold Diggers, starring Julie Christie, in 1983, and nine years later had a major success with her Virginia Woolf adaptation, Orlando, with Tilda Swinton. She has often set herself formal challenges in her films – the script of Yes is almost entirely in iambic pentameter; Rage unfolds in a series of monologues, and was the first film to premiere simultaneously in cinemas and on mobile phones – but she returns to the mainstream with Ginger and Rosa. She was awarded the OBE in the 2012 Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to film.

Filmography

1969 Jerk [s]
1970 Play [s]; Black & White [s]; Hors d’oeuvres [s]
1979 Thriller [s]
1983 The Gold Diggers
1986 The London Story [s]
1987 Tears, Laughter, Fear and Rage [TV doc series]
1988 I Am an Ox, I Am a Horse, I Am a Man, I Am a Woman [TV doc]
1992 Orlando
1997 The Tango Lesson
2000 The Man Who Cried
2004 Yes
2009 Rage
2012 Ginger and Rosa

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