Austrian director presents sci-fi film about mysterious plant at Cannes

“I find gene technology very interesting and I was reading quite a lot about that, it has two sides, it is a gift but also a threat,” said Austrian movie director Jessica Hausner at the 72nd edition of the Cannes Film Festival.

“It creates a lot of very positive effects for mankind, for example in medicine or heathy food; on the other hand, we are very afraid of that, because science doesn’t really know what could happen from some of these inventions. I’m very interested in the ambiguity and the contradictory truths,” Hausner said in a recent exclusive interview with Xinhua about her movie Little Joe, which was in competition at the film festival.

The film tells the story of a single mother working as a senior plant breeder in a corporation engaged in developing new spices. She has engineered a special crimson flower which is beautiful and therapeutic. If kept at the right temperature, fed properly and spoken to regularly, it gives happiness to its owner. The problem for the lab comes when the plant unexpectedly becomes sentient.

Hauser conducted intense research for the film and there were scientists that worked continuously with her: a plant geneticist, a human geneticist and a neurologist. They all worked with her on the script regarding the virus theory that is part of the film.

Concerning happiness, the main theme of the film, Hausner said: “Happiness is important like love and faith, but it is all in our head. I think we couldn’t live without those ideas but for me it is interesting to say that these are only ideas, I don’t think they are real.”

Asked if happiness seems to be more a contemporary need than in the past, the Austrian director stressed: “I don’t think we were happier in the past. I think we always desired happiness.”

About the atmosphere she wanted to show, she said: “The whole film is very stylized and it has a very artificial look. I tried to create a world on its own. It is nearly a surrealist world. The reason for that is that although my film is about a modern gene technology, I don’t want my film to be valid only in the present.”

Hausner tried to create more of a fairy tale atmosphere with the artificial look.

Talking about the human relations in the film, Hausner explained that the connection between the mother and the child is a very important topic because mothers nowadays work hard.

“I think that our society has to find answers to fix the problem of child care,” she said.

One solution is that both men and women could work fewer hours so that they could really share child care, she said.

“We should have better institutions: teachers, schools, facilities where the children can grow in a heathy, positive and emotional way. To do that we have to pay our workforce better, because they have a very important task in society,” Hausner said.

Hausner premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2014 with her third film Amour Fou, which was selected to compete in Un Certain Regard, a section of the film festival’s official selection.