Politics do not belong in film
by Vladan Petkovic
- Kristijan Milic's speaks to Cineuropa about his second feature film Number 55, his experience from the 90s war in Croatia and his affinity for genre films.
Croatian director Kristijan Milic's second feature film Number 55 [+see also:
film profile] scooped eight Golden Arenas, including best film and best director, at the country's national Pula Film Festival. He speaks to Cineuropa about his experience from the 90s war in Croatia and his affinity for genre films.
Cineuropa: You have an obvious affinity for genre films. This is your second war film, and while The Living and the Dead was a mix with horror, Number 55 is leaning towards the action genre.
Kristijan Milic: I have always liked war films, especially those about the Vietnam War. As I was fighting in war later myself, the affinity for the genre developed even further.
Every genre has its subgenres, so war films can also be more or less action movies, or even horror. But war genre is not the only one I am interested in. I am a big supporter and fan of crime films and horrors.
Number 55 is based on an actual event. Why did you decide to make a film exactly about this story?
Besides the fact that it is one of the most tragic stories from the Homeland War [Croatian War of Independence], it is ideal for big screen adaptation in every sense. It's interesting, suspenseful, devastating, and still doable with limited resources. On the other hand, not many people knew about this event, which gave us an additional motive to make a film about it.
Why did you decide not to have one or two lead characters, and instead all the characters have a more or less equal importance? And does it not lessen the chance for the audiences to relate to the film?
I belive it is a legitimate approach when the film is following a group of people (and in these case, several groups). It is not uncommon, especially for the war genre. Howard Hawks and John Carpenter employed the same approach in many of their films. This film leans onto that tradition, and its concept is undeniably reminiscent of the Assault on Precinct 13, although it is based on a real event.
As for relatability of the audience to the film, I don't think it decreases the impact. Usually people are forced to identify with one character that perhaps does not fit them at all. In this film, everyone can choose a character closest to themselves. And I sincerely hope that most audiences will relate to all of them, because that is the aim of this approach.
How did you connect your war experience with making of this film? There is no politics in it, nor a direct relation to the enemy.
In actual battle, you rarely ever see the enemy, and when you do, you either try to avoid his bullets or shoot him. That is the most direct relation you can imagine, trust me.
As for politics, I think they do not belong in film. I literally despise films that impose any kind of political views to the audience. In my films, I try to be as objective as possible, even if it goes against my own leanings.
The film features top-notch technical credits. What were the biggest challenges, and what is it like to make a film like this in Croatia?
The hardest part was to shoot all the scenes within schedule. The scenes were pretty demanding, and time was short. As time on film is money, the answer is simple: the conditions for making films like this in Croatia are bad because there's not enough money.
This film cost about one million US$. Try to imagine its budget if it was shot in the States. For comparison, each episode of Band of Brothers cost US$12.5 million in 2001. Today it would cost three times as much.
How do you see the relation of Croatian cinema towards the war of the nineties?
Making war films has never been popular. There was a general idea in Croatia that all our films were war films, although they were mostly dramas with (inevitably) war in the background. I can count real war films on fingers of one hand, and even these were not based on the very action of war. Maybe today that kind of film will be accepted better than 10 or 15 years ago when war was still fresh in people's memory.
(Translated from Spanish)