Ursula Mayer


Gonda is a thirty-minute 16mm film directed by Ursula Mayer, with screenplay written by Maria Fusco.

The film is informed by Ayn Rand’s 1937 play Ideal. Known as a controversial Russian/American writer and philosopher, Rand unpacks her philosophical system of ‘Objectivism’ in her work, with its stubbornly anti-altruistic and individualistic position. As a critical counter to Rand’s position, the film Gonda addresses cinematic and linguistic space by creating kaleidoscopic spaces in which image, text and sound shift roles to affect pre-supposed ideals of identity and existence. Noting how the cinematic image actually gazes back on us, the film utilises highly stylised imagery, moods of slideshows and precisely composed floating imagery. Gonda then can be seen as a game the artist plays with the audience, within the mutual dependence and co-dependency of affirmation. The film experiments in polyphonic monologue embodied in the eponymous main character, Gonda, who is portrayed by the Dutch transgender model Valentijn de Hingh.

The screenplay was developed from a series of interdisciplinary workshops which included academics, curators, critics and writers, who were invited to creatively and critically respond to Ideal; the workshops centred on the possibilities of writing through or by rather than about Rand’s play. The screenplay’s key structural textual reference is the production structure of Félix Guattari’s unrealised 1986 Project for a Film by Kafka, in which Guattari proposed a made-for-television cultural mini-series inspired by episodes in Kafka’s writings and life. The final screenplay cannibalises new writing and transcribed workshop material, together with five letter-based passages from Ideal, and nudges them into alternative personal pronouns to make Gonda a film of voices.