To talk about this surreal story we must first introduce you to Joanna Hogg.
Born in London in 1960, daughter of the vice-president of an insurance agency, she attended elementary school at the prestigious West Heath School, an independent school in Sevenoaks, Kent. After graduating she moved to Florence where she studied photography and where she began to take an interest in cinema. She directed short experimental films in super 8 and one of these, dedicated to the kinetic sculptures of Ron Haselden, gave her the opportunity to enrol at the National Film and Television School in London in 1982. For her thesis exam, Hogg directed the short film Caprice, starring what would later become one of the most talented and charismatic actresses of the last 10 years, Tilda Swinton, and this is where our story begins.
Tilda Swinton and Joanna Hogg met for the first time right at West Heath School, they were in class together in elementary school – with them there was also Diana Spencer, yes that Diana.
According to Swinton, their relationship was one of “mutual hatred” but that actually hid an intrinsic bond based on the feelings of discomfort and embarrassment they both felt at the time in a very elite environment. Hogg changed schools during her teenage years and the two lost touch. In 1986, however, Joanna chose 26-year-old Tilda to star – effectively launching her career – in her film/dissertation, with which she went on to pass her final exam at the National Film and Television School.
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Caprice is a 26-minute short film in which the protagonist Lucky is literally swallowed up by the pages of a fashion magazine that gives the film its title. Matilda Swinton – so credited in the titles – moves through dreamlike atmospheres, crossing the different articles of the magazine: she finds herself involved in a high fashion editorial, in a New Wave dance and in a thousand other contexts typical of a magazine that deals with fashion. Lucky is Caprice‘s “number 1” reader and throughout the film it almost seems as if this passion of hers, which has led her to be swallowed up by the magazine itself, wears her down little by little. “At the heart of it is the pressure placed on a young woman by advertising to behave and look a certain way,” said Hogg. “I was really interested in the way a young woman thinks about herself, or the self-doubt about how she looks and how she looks. And then the contradiction in me at that time of really being interested in fashion and fashion magazines. I wanted to embrace the contradiction that I felt as a young woman who loved fashion magazines, but also understand the dark side of what they represented to someone who was desperate to be accepted”.
Like a new Alice in Wonderland, Lucky enters a world that fascinates her but at the same time consumes and frightens her. A “playful but also very serious” story that deals with extremely contemporary and latent themes of the world of communication related to fashion, in an exaggerated and surreal key.
Hogg and Swinton will continue to work together over the years. The latest film directed by Joanna Hogg, for example, The Souvenir: Part II, stars Swinton and her daughter Honor as a film student. Tilda Swinton commented on her participation in this film closing a circle opened at the time of the West Heath School: “It is a kind of miracle for me to see the story of my oldest friend traced by my own daughter with such grace and understanding”.