Shot in her Paris studio during lockdown, In My Room tells the fascinating story of a woman in the twilight of her life, based on recordings of the director's deceased grandmother. Living rooms become the stage for where life is lived. Windows become doors to the lives of others. This melodramatic home movie blends themes of womanhood, transmission, and freedom, based on recordings of her grandmother.
““When Miu Miu proposed to me to make a film for Women’s Tales during confinement, in the midst of a health and social crisis, I thought it was a very delicate exercise but also a challenge that confronted me with essential questions about my practice as a filmmaker,” Diop explained while talking about the personal nature of her short film. “What story can I tell now, with minimal means, alone in my studio, that resonates with what the world is going through while being intimate?”
More than the stunning visual narrative of In My Room, what strikes the viewer is actually the affable ramblings of the filmmaker’s grandmother Maji. Maji had lived in a kind of quarantine of her own for around 20 years, forced to stay in her Parisian apartment in the 17th Arrondissement. Diop plays the recordings of Maji, a chronicle of her slow decline as she grapples with memory loss. However, the film begins with an act of remembering and ultimately ends up as one. Maji talks about the regrets of her past and living through the war, declaring “The war wasn’t fun. But there was the cinema!”
While the audio narrative traverses the axis of time, the camera explores the space around Diop’s apartment during the COVID-19 lockdown. It flits from one window to another, capturing lost souls who are fundamentally fragmented and isolated. In My Room presents a society of alienated individuals who cannot make sense of their loneliness, descending to the realm of insanity while sitting at home and scrolling through their phones. We see Diop expressing her own anguish through a performance of “La Traviata”, trying to search for subjectivity in the darkness of the night. The mixture of lightning and artificial lighting offers no solutions.”
Swapnil Dhruv Bose1
“Once, during an interview, filmmaker Chantal Akerman spoke to her own voyeuristic inclinations. She referred to her signature mundane scenes of strangers going about life as “people waiting for death.” Much like Maji quite literally awaits her fate in Diop’s short, Akerman’s final feature, No Home Movie (2015) documents the final days she spent with her mother, Natalia, whose health was in decline. The majority of the film takes place in Natalia’s prim Brussels apartment. While there’s a lingering tinge of melancholy throughout, there’s also an exquisite allure to the way Akerman generously reveals the source of her maternal influence. A similar magnetic vulnerability permeates In My Room. Both filmmakers see voyeurism as a two-way street and offer the intimacy of their private lives just as naturally as they accentuate the humdrum goings on of neighbors and anonymous passersby.”