Mollie Mills, filmmaker, on her sovereign ring.
GB Tell me why you chose this?
MM I bought this ring for £26.99 from Argos in Hackney when I was 13. It’s been on a journey through my adolescence and into early adulthood, reminding me each time I look down at my hands of my youth – an upbringing on an East London council estate. It’s gold plated, chipped and misshapen but has an air of opulence that reminds me of my aspirations then and now. One day, I’ll get a real gold one I’d say.
I once told my boyfriend I’d never get married because there’s no ring more symbolic for my fourth finger than my sovereign.
GB Do you think you’ll find the real gold one as beautiful? It won’t have been on the same journey with you.
MM Probably not. They can live on different fingers – maybe some poncy resemblance between my past and future or something like that.
GB You like this because it reminds you of where you come from. You also make quite hard-hitting social documentaries. Does beauty have an element of the political for you? Or do you like things that are more superficially appealing too?
MM Beautiful aesthetic is always important to me but depth, whether that’s political, social or emotional can change the way I see something altogether and that brings a deeper beauty. A recurring theme in my work is showing a softer, more beautiful side to subcultures that are often portrayed as intimidating or unattractive, by telling their story.
GB Do you think that it’s possible to make anything or anyone look beautiful in a film or picture – though the right lighting and way of shooting it?
MM I think you can show a beautiful side to anything or anyone through telling their story in a particular light. Clever camera work and lighting can change audience perception but only up to a point. My dad used to tell me, “pretty is only ever pretty but ugly can be beautiful.” This is something I come back to a lot when I’m thinking about creating imagery.
GB Do other people find your ring beautiful? Would you make it perfect again if you could?
MM Firstly, I wouldn’t change a thing about it. It is what it is and it’ll continue to look more silver and chipped. Some people find it cheap and garish but to me, it’s wonderful. Aesthetic beauty isn’t universal but I’d like to believe sentiment is.
GB Is this because sentiments like sadness and fear are biological – but you think our reaction to beauty isn’t? Do you think beauty as a concept has been created by us and varies for each individual?
MM Talking in terms of objects and belongings, it’s about taste and that is absolutely individual but revealing background or a concept behind something that people might initially find repulsive can pull on the heartstrings or like you said, play on sadness or fear. My gran had hundreds of these horrific porcelain dogs in her house when I was a child and I only understood, in retrospect, why they were so beautiful when I realised that animals gave her a sense of companionship in her lonely, older years; they were her closest friends. We can all experience compassion and empathy for something upon knowing what it’s really about and that’s a beautiful thing.
GB What makes something worthy of the word Beauty to you?
MM I can appreciate good design, sumptuous aesthetic, vivid colour and all the ingredients for something instantly, perceivably beautiful but functionality, feeling and reason is, for me, where true beauty lies.