In Dorothée van den Berghe's delicate and touching coming-of-age story, 10-year-old Karo moves with her parents Raven and Dalia to a vibrant and carefree artists' squat in 1970s Amsterdam. The group lives in a space without walls, espousing views of free love, community, and revelry. But when Raven's relationship with a new woman—and Dalia's subsequent jealousy—fractures their family and threatens the commune's utopia, both Raven's lofty ideals and Karo's childish innocence will be challenged by the messy realities of human emotion.
Girl director van den Berghe draws on her own childhood in bohemian Amsterdam to craft a tender and visually lush portrait of adolescence. Newcomer Anna Franziska Jäger is captivating as Karo, channeling the universal childhood revelation that nothing stays the same forever and even grown-ups don't have all the answers. Through Karo's innocent point of view, we witness events beyond her years to comprehend, while the film's nostalgic tone and autobiographical perspective infuse it with a sense of understanding in hindsight.
Director's Statement Collapse
With My Queen Karo, I intended to sketch the portrait of an era, the seventies, as seen through the eyes of a young girl. It was a time when values were questioned, and people gave themselves over to experimentation and fought for ideals. As a director, this idealism intrigues me. I am interested in these people who take to the streets to defend their interests, who occupy buildings to oppose speculation, who seek new ways of configuring the family and who experiment freely with sexuality and drugs. I wanted to draw a portrait of people who push back limits, who commit to ideals and try to apply them in practice; it is often impossible to reconcile what real life has in store for us with our pre-established ideals, so I wanted to explore this conflict in the film.
By framing things through Karo's eyes, who is growing up in this anarchic environment and is experiencing firsthand the upheavals of her era, I believe it is possible to explore extreme situations without passing judgment. And, Karo is not a passive witness, but a child who is growing up and who is, little by little, beginning to assert herself. How does a child grow and develop in an environment where the main principle is that there are no rules? This is where the film begins.
In this constantly changing environment, Karo attempts to find her own set of rules and a foundation for herself. She discovers a fascination with everything that can be frozen, as she wants things to stay the way they are. She goes so far as to freeze her pet hedgehog to protect it from life's problems, with the intention of allowing it to thaw later on when things are looking up. She has no ready-made way of protecting herself. At the end of the film, she discovers, as all children must, that she probably never will and seems to accept that change is an inescapable fact of life; that which is in the past continues to exist in memory and becomes a new resource for moving forward.
My Queen Karo is not so much a slice-of-life documentary as a personal impression. I was not seeking to create realistic images, instead, suggesting a subjective point of view, a personal world and a language of associative images that correspond to the logic of a child's marveling gaze on the world. In this world, music and sounds are also filtered by Karo's ever-changing thoughts and feelings.
The film is based on my childhood memories, but My Queen Karo goes beyond that which is purely anecdotal and autobiographical—all the while, being specific and detailed enough to embody an impression of a period of history. My Queen Karo is a personal portrait that reflects the spirit of a whole generation.