“The characters I depict are all parts of me”

In conversation with spellbinding filmmaker Emma Westenberg.


Blessed with the gift to visually transform any setting, Dutch filmmaker Emma Westenberg crafts cinematic creations imbued with a happy-go-lucky and wry aesthetic that aims to un-riddle life’s manifold mysteries. The cinematographer has collaborated with fellow Rietveld graduate and boundary-testing designer Sophie Hardeman to further enable her moving, whimsical images, and pull reality out from under us—only to then go and offer a bird’s-eye view of it. We spoke to visual storyteller for our Modern Love issue.

What is it about the art of filmmaking that you cherish?

The emotional storytelling abilities of the work itself, but in making it the aspect of collaboration. 

Which genres do you constantly fall back on?

Romance and Mystery.

What (aesthetic) narrative would you say runs through all of your creations?

I would say humour is important, and colour.

You’ve collaborated on various projects, often working together with fashion designers such as Sophie Hardeman. Is it important to make a film that is born out of an effective relationship or partnership? And what do you find compelling about combining fashion and film?

Making a good film is always in collaboration—so effectively a mutual understanding and appreciation of each other’s ability and vision is important in working together. I like film/art/fashion because it can take you away from reality for a bit, whilst enabling you to reflect on it at the same time. Because of this, I like to create a world that is different from reality, more compelling or condensed. I think this is where fashion comes into my films. It helps me build my characters.

What idea of love, intimacy and relationships are you exploring through film?

Romance is consistent in all of my work because it’s one of life’s biggest mysteries. Love is strange: you can fall in love with a complete stranger, or someone you don’t even like. I like to think love is stronger than hate—although love can be a dark force too.

Modern Love is a concept with many different connotations. What does it mean to you?

Love and let love.

Where does your work sit on a wider spectrum? And on a more intimate, personal level?

In a wider context, I think my work is somewhere between an abstract aesthetic world and a fictional drama film. On a more intimate level, the characters that I depict are all parts of me.

For love to work, what does it need?

To hate it too; to be obsessed.

As an artist, what are you daydreaming about?

About the sea, always.

Photography by Yulia Zinshtein

Photography by Yulia Zinshtein

Follow Emma on Instagram

Words by Rebecca Nevins

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