by writer/director Sally Potter
It is sometimes said that children are born seeing the world clearly but their clarity is gradually obliterated by adults who insist on a more 'realistic' view of life. And then that teenagers and young people can afford to be idealistic about the world, but real, responsible adult life will soon put a stop to their illusions. Ginger & Rosa is set in the early 1960s in a milieu populated by idealists, free thinkers, protestors against the status quo, where everything is up for grabs and 'reality' itself is a question mark. Desire can trump responsibility. Rationality can be cloaked in romanticism. Words of truth can be uttered by the untrustworthy. Friendship can turn into betrayal. Parents become children. Children become poets. And hovering over this world is the fear of nuclear apocalypse, an end to everything.
I can remember this world. I marched against the bomb. I wanted to save the world, save us all. I remember the pulse of adolescent hormones, the excitement of the world of ideas, the respect for the rebellious adults around me, the confusion at the outsider status of the idealists whose beliefs I worshipped but whose actions I did not always understand. As the sixties progressed and ideas like 'the personal is political' became current, I began to see that every action is linked. There are no 'off-limits' to ethics. Intimate feelings, suffered in isolation, are in fact part of a bigger picture. We are not alone.
Deciding to write a story set in this time and this world, that drew on personal memory and yet was a fiction, was an interesting and complex ride. The more I wrote, the further the script ventured into imaginary territory. Piece by piece I removed or transformed autobiographical elements until a parallel universe emerged, the world of Ginger and Rosa, 'true' but invented. There never was a Rosa, a Roland or a Bella. But there was a Cuban Missile Crisis, we did survive that potentially catastrophic moment, and the brave protestors of the time must be at least partially responsible for persuading the leaders of nations to become adult, to wake up to their responsibilities and to avert the apocalypse. And the liberation movements of the later years of the sixties, born of these earlier times of doubt and confusion, seeded ideas which are the bedrock of so much that is now considered just and right.
I am often asked how much of Ginger & Rosa is autobiographical. Apparently, Isak Dinesen, when asked the same question of her stories, used to answer, crisply, "seventeen percent." That answer will do for me, too. All fictions are grounded in memory, though not necessarily the memory of the writer, but in some imaginary world, in which we are each other and the most intimate personal events link with those events furthest away and seemingly beyond our control.
Writer/director Sally Potter in the 1960s.