Jörn Donner’s entire production can be considered as a self-portrait, a life-spanning performance. Whilst others have painted one image or another of Donner, John Webster’s interpretation differs in that it pulls most of its material from Donner’s last-intended interview in December 2019, and an immense never-before-seen collection of photographs from albums simply labelled “Donner – Privat”. As a result, the film morphs into an epilogue of sorts, of Donner’s life story.
The premise of the film is based on the last intended interview of Donner in December 2019. Pirjo Honkasalo planned out the interview using the same questions that Donner himself once inquired from Ingmar Bergman in his own documentary.
Donner created his own persona as a restless European, who wanted to see and experience the world, and write of his thoughts in a way that was foreign to Finnish norms. He was open to everything, and willing to try anything, yet nevertheless he keenly felt like a lonesome outsider. Writing became the answer to his loneliness. “My legacy will be words”, declared the true Man of Letters.
Donner – Private becomes a fruitful work of art, as topics from the personal to the mundane are each handled with warmth and the wisdom of life. Donner’s way with words never shied away from thoughts on love, parentage, fatherlessness, failure, his own shortcomings and, of course, death. A dying man has a lifetime to reflect back upon, yet when it comes down to it, only he has the right to his inner self.
Ville Suhonen (Translation: Lydia Taylerson)