“We wanted to make a haunting film”
by Vladan Petkovic
- One of Croatia’s best-known filmmakers, Goran Dević, and master director Zvonimir Jurić have made an unprecedented film about the crimes of their own people
Cineuropa: Where did the idea for The Blacks [+see also:
interview: Zvonimir Juric, Goran De…
film profile] come from? When did you decide to connect it with the "Garage" case?
Zvonimir Juric: I didn't have a conscious idea to speak about Croatian crimes because I'm completely engrossed in dramaturgy when I write and I hope that my anti-nationalist spirit comes out. I don't calculate any subjects that are potentially difficult because I can't work on something I'm completely indifferent to. I don't think grouping through a concept of the “national” is a good thing and I hope that in the future nations as such will disappear.
Personally, I didn't deal with the factual event – the murders in the garage – nor did I want to be faithful to it. I just wanted to be complex about it. In the film, we don’t explain why or how those things happened. We wanted to make a haunting film, and that can be created if you don't explain too much. That's why we chose the principle of [Ridley Scott's] Alien – a monster is strongest and scariest when you see it the least.
Goran Devic: Frankly, I don't remember how the garage sneaked into the script. When you look at my earlier films, you can assume that it simply came along with me, but today I can neither confirm nor deny it.
How did you work as two directors? What did you give each other?
Juric: Problems, pain, satisfaction, happiness, support, doubt, surprise.
Devic: Zvonimir gave me a sort of safety net that I could safely fall into, which is not the case when you direct on your own.
Films about the war in Croatia and Bosnia have been made for the past 15 years, but only now, with The Blacks and Ordinary People [+see also:
interview: Vladimir Perisic: Ordinary …
film profile], are directors making films about the crimes of their own people. Do you agree there is a certain self-censorship among Croatian directors, that they never speak against the State and Church?
Juric: There have been no such films because the dominant perception among Croats is that they are only victims of the war. The Church and the holy new State are unquestionable foundations of such "Croatian-ness", so that is reflected in film as well. Or, perhaps, film takes part in forming such an opinion.
Devic: People tend to forget documentary films. Such documentaries have been made for a long time. I think that our feature films are somewhat cowardly because they require more money, so automatically self-censorship is stronger.
Long shots in The Blacks go perfectly in hand with the claustrophobic set-up. Why did you decide to use that kind of approach?
Juric: We wanted to make a heavy film, one that will hit you with a hammer on the head, like Alien. The best way to do this is to have a small number of actors, closing them off in one space and not cutting it too much. Instead, you keep the parts of silence and emptiness that you would normally cut out in editing. That way they become an important part of the atmosphere. I think it was crucial that we played with off-camera space. We didn't allow the spectator to see everything but dragged him into the scene to deal with the characters.
Devic: I think that the decision not to modify the space in which we filmed was crucial. It's simply easier to build an atmosphere around a real space than to forcefully change it into something it isn't. In such cases, I trust my intuition. I felt in that space the same way I felt when I was in the army, so it was perfect. As for framing, we believed that the concept of the long shot was useful for the film. This proved to be ideologically correct, because there is less lying in it. If you don’t do it right, it can be counterproductive because a viewer will have a feeling that there is someone else there, someone conducting the whole thing – i.e. a poor director.