Hellenthal explores this correlation between finding one’s identity and social media, but only to a point. The filmmaker doesn’t shy away from artistic flourishes, which will either grate or mesmerize. She frames the frequently-nude Eva like a modern goddess, in long static shots of her glaring into the camera in crisp, colorfully avant-garde settings (some of them include men, or women, or both, lounging in the background). Messages Eva has received from her fans frequently punctuate the screen. Some of them are questions or statements that aren’t directly related to the narrative (“Your pictures make me anxious. Your long legs are so weird. I’m afraid you’re an alien.”) It’s all very self-aware and ostentatious, almost functioning as a satire of itself, emphasis on almost. In its attempts to mirror the abbreviated sentiments of the current social media culture, the doc becomes an abridged version of a statement.
“…explores this correlation between finding one’s identity and social media, but only to a point.”
The scenes of Eva visiting her drug-addict mother in Italy form some of the most compelling bits of Searching Eva. In fact, it could have delved deeper into examining how our upbringing shapes us, how a childhood may be so suffocating that complete exhibitionism during adulthood is the only form of salvation. Instead, we get Insta-like, scattered tidbits: as a child, Eva wasn’t allowed to swim naked or wear shorts; she dates guys but masturbates to lesbian porn; Eva’s home is described as a drug-infested cesspool where she gets sh*t-faced with her coke-addicted friends. “I’m 24, and I am convinced I am going to start rotting,” she narrates in a detached monotone. Go ahead and retweet that.
The final shot of Eva in a pink room, ignoring the fireworks around her, is powerfully evocative. Hellenthal certainly has a knack for framing, for abstract composition; her film is visually splendid. Love it or loathe it, Searching Eva is a direct product of our uncertain, defiant and egotistical times.
"…very self-aware and ostentatious, almost functioning as a satire of itself..."