From the inside out
by Vladan Petkovic
- An account of the method of a director who rejects the strategy of "serious" subjects to target festivals
After 1999's Red Dust and 2003's Here, Croatian director Zrinko Ogresta has now made Behind the Glass [+see also:
interview: Ivan Maloca
interview: Zrinko Ogresta
film profile], in official competition at Karlovy Vary. Cineuropa talks to the director about making the film, his poetic sense and the situation in Croatian film production.
Cineuropa: You take big gaps between films, at least in terms by Western film industry standards. Why do you take about four years between films?
Zrinko Ogresta: That is my rhythm. I need about a year to prepare a script. When I finish one film, I need time to get out of it and find content worth working on for the next film. Formally, it is not hard to get a script and have it filmed, but it isn't easy finding a worthy subject matter, particularly in small film industries such as Croatia's, where one doesn't have the chance to make a lot of films. I feel a responsibility to tell important stories.
How do you decide which subject is worth filming?
Directors from small film industries sometimes calculate which subjects they are going to work on, because some of them open more doors to festivals, such as inter-ethnic relationships, human trafficking and so on. I did Behind the Glass without any calculation.
It's a small film that deals with an eternal subject, a love triangle, which is maybe a theme that limits it from breaking into big film festivals. Most of the films from this region that have achieved something on the international scene in the last 10-15 years have big subjects. My principle is different. I simply let a certain idea live in me until I feel I can interpret it fully and that is my criteria - it comes from inside and is not directed towards the outside. People can have different opinions on the film, but they will recognize true inspiration.
The characters in all of your films experience tragedies or big dramas. Do you start with the characters or with what should be happening to them?
I am always interested in the individual, in their intimate drama and problems. I believe that a particular problem can be interpreted as universal in a wider social context. Behind the Glass is my attempt to face some of my personal dilemmas and failures in life. I allowed myself to make a film that probably personally concerns me the most. I felt that I had a very personal subject matter, not autobiographical, but which corresponded with audiences. It's about a very common problem but it is shaped in a personal way and people can recognize themselves in it.
The film's cast is one of its strongest elements. Did you have these particular actors in mind when you were writing the script?
Never in my life have I had an idea of who would act in a film until I have the script completely defined. That gives me the freedom to think about different possibilities. For Behind the Glass I didn't have any plan, but it's interesting that the three main actors were not my first choices, except for Leon Lucev. He was the only choice, as he is one of the best Croatian actors around and one who is really developing from film to film and whose age and personal background perfectly fit the character.
I had two and a half months of rehearsals with an actress who should have played his wife but in the end I didn't get the chemistry I wanted for the part so I had to change her. I chose Jadranka Djokic, who subsequently won the Golden Arena for Best Actress at the Pula Film Festival.
Watching your films, one gets the impression that you watch your characters from a certain distance.
It's in my nature. I am interested in people and I watch them from a distance without going into their relationships directly, almost in a voyeuristic way. That is a part of my character that is transferred to the film. My colleague, director Anton Vrdoljak, once said that film is the art where the artist can hide the least. It speaks about the director the most and you can't hide behind your film.