The Venus of Willendorf (La Venere di Willendorf)

Thursday June 17, 2004 – 7:30pm
Italy, 1997. Director: Elisabetta Lodoli

The earliest known representation of a human, a woman, is the so-called “Venus” of Willendorf, a small statue found near the town of Willendorf in Austria with a bulging, pear-like body, large pendulous breasts, ample abdomen, and prominent vulva. Not surprisingly, this Venus of Willendorf, Elisabetta Lodoli’s feature debut, tackles a subject infrequently depicted in film: bulimia. Interestingly, the word “bulimia” or indeed, any explicit reference to an eating disorder, is never mentioned. Fifteen years ago, cousins Elena (Luisa Pasello) and Ida (Iaia Forte) were best friends who fell in love with the same man, Enrico (Emilio Bonucci). Elena wins Emilio by default and Elena and Ida drift bitterly apart. Brought together again by Elena’s father’s death, the two cautiously attempt reconciliation. Elena’s marriage is now crumbling, due in part to her sexual frigidity. The more time the two spend together, the more Ida senses that something is seriously wrong. It is only the audience, however, that witnesses Elena’s secret binge eating and purging, her desperate and grotesquely excessive food purchases, her self-induced vomiting, her constant obsession with appearance and her distorted self-perception, the latter effectively conveyed as we see Elena repeatedly regarding her slim naked body in a distorted mirror. Ultimately, the movie is a sad, intimate and effective character study of a woman in severe psychological distress with an illness that no one notices. In Italian with subtitles. Colour, VHS, 86 mins.

The program will include a post-screening discussion with:
Cynthia Johnston
: Cynthia is a therapist specializing in eating disorders and women’s issues and the founding director of the Eating Disorder Resource Centre of BC. A recent hiatus allowed Cynthia to pursue her interest in photography and international health and human rights. Having since established a following as an international photographer, Cynthia’s work remains available through her shows and website and she is currently planning to open a private practice for individuals struggling with disordered eating.

Evening moderated by:
Dr. Harry Karlinsky
Director of Continuing Medical Education and Professional Development, Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia.

Co-sponsored by The Association for Awareness and Networking Around Disordered Eating (ANAD)