THE INFINITE PAIN OF SOLITUDE: AN INTERVIEW WITH TAMAR VAN WANING

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The film Paradise Drifters recounts the odyssey of three teenagers as they travel through Europe. Lead actress Tamar van Waning is an exceptional force of nature – at the same time, this is her first role. What is the source of this power, anger, and unconditional will?

Our editor-in-chief, Ruben Donsbach, interviews Tamar van Waning on the trauma of youth and the longing to be loved. 

Mees Peijnenburg, the director of Paradise Drifters, discovered you through a kind of reality TV show. What was it about?

Teenagers from very complicated and dysfunctional backgrounds are motivated to go back to school. I was interested in it because I had a lot of problems as a teenager and wanted to inspire younger people to make better life choices. 

What was being a teenager like for you? 

I grew up in a pretty broken family. That made me a very stubborn child. I kept changing schools and, for a while, I went to an institution for children with behavioral problems. I somehow made it out of there and also kept in touch with my mother and father.

How did you feel back then?

 I was angry. Angry about not really being understood. That’s how a lot of young people feel. The brain is still developing, you haven’t learned how to properly express emotions. At least I couldn’t. Paradise Drifters really helped me understand myself. 

Your emotionality was extreme?

Yes. Some people feel happy, and that’s okay. But when I feel happy, I go crazy. And when I feel bad, I feel really bad. When I was young, I couldn’t handle all that sadness. So I got angry. That was my biggest problem. 

What did you learn while playing Chloe in Paradise Drifters?

How to better control my emotions and become more flexible in my reactions. Not always with anger. But, most important, is the knowledge that I like it when my life is a roller coaster. It was important to accept that. I will never be able to lead a life that is relaxed and planned out. It doesn’t fit my character very well, I get bored far too quickly for that.

In general, Paradise Drifters shows an angry and rebellious youth. What is this anger really directed towards, what triggers it?

The families in Paradise Drifters are dysfunctional, there is no trust, there are no loving relationships. That alone makes young people angry. If a child experiences no trust and no affection, they will become rebellious – or an outsider. But more than anything, they feel lost. Lorenzo, Chloe, and Yousef – the film’s three main protagonists – don’t know where to go. They are searching for something, but don’t know what.

Chloe was abused and impregnated by her stepfather in Holland. She decides to run away and sell the child to a criminal organization in Marseilles. Why does she choose to do something so radical?

What’s growing inside of her feels hugely negative. This being is utterly alien to her. This only changes when she hears the child’s heartbeat for the first time during an examination. Suddenly there is a connection.

The child becomes a part of her?

Yes. But Chloe doesn’t want to give birth to this being, this negativity. Also, out of fear that the baby might end up like her, that it might have the same shitty life that she had.

As an actor, how did you manage to express such a complicated and unfathomable emotional world?

To be honest, the pain of my own biography played a big part. You could almost call it method acting, in other words: you play a feeling based on real experience. Regardless, it was difficult, I never had an abortion. I had to touch on feelings that I had locked away for 23 years.

There are very extreme moments when you let it all out. You can be heard crying, screaming, it’s as if the viewer is watching a force of nature. How did you feel after these days of shooting?

Screwed up, sure. But also closer to myself. You need to be totally self-aware on set. The viewer thinks I’m alone in the picture. But there’s a whole team around me. To be able to let go of everything at that moment, to expose your emotions and fears time and time again … it makes something clear, makes you stronger and, at the same time, more vulnerable. I know that sounds like a contradiction. But that vulnerability felt good for the first time in my life. I felt like those emotions were what made me truly human.

Probably the most extreme moment of the film is the scene in which the fetus, previously terminated with pills, is removed from your uterus. This is shown during a long shot with almost poetic lighting. Just you, the doctor, and the pain. It’s nearly impossible to bear.

At times, I laughed euphorically during this day of shooting.

Because the emotion was too strong?

Yes, it was totally overwhelming. But also cathartic. In my role as Chloe, but also for myself. It’s like all the horrible thoughts and memories of my own youth were finally drained out of me.

Did your parents see the movie?

Yes. And you know what? They were so proud. It was a huge relief. Who knows what comes next? I’m not afraid of the future anymore.

Tamar van Waning is shot by Antje Peters, wearing Emporio Armani.
This feature was first printed in our Spring/Summer 2020 print issue, with the theme of Birth.

More information on Paradise Drifters, and where to watch it, can be found here.
In the meantime, you can watch the trailer below. 

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