“I am interested in things that the war brought to the surface”
by Vladan Petkovic
- Cineuropa chatted to Zvonimir Juric, director of The Reaper, about his approach to the film's narrative form and the Croatian film industry's current attitudes to covering the topic of war
Croatian director Zvonimir Juric's The Reaper [+see also:
interview: Zvonimir Jurić
film profile], which world-premiered at Toronto last year, will be screened at the Berlinale's European Film Market this year. The filmmaker who rose to prominence with one of the best Croatian films of the last decade, The Blacks [+see also:
interview: Zvonimir Juric, Goran De…
film profile], which he co-directed with Goran Devic, talks to Cineuropa about his poetics and subject matter.
Cineuropa: Why did you opt for exactly this form for The Reaper – three interconnected stories?
Zvonimir Juric: I went for three stories because I thought that one story would not be enough to show what I wanted to say. I also thought that some of the characters who appeared in the first story for a brief period of time would be interesting enough to follow in a second and third story.
Judging by your films, you are very interested in the recent past and its consequences in Croatia. What is the climate in Croatian film right now regarding these themes, and would you ever make a film without a strong political/social issue at its core?
Yes, this film is very much connected to the consequences of war. Not because I am a humanist, but because I am interested in things that the war brought to the surface, which seem unsolvable and are traumatic for my characters. My films have a pessimistic feeling. I will try to change that in the next one – I am tired of defeats, and I want my characters to win.
The climate in the film industry regarding the war is still too respectful of the official, nationalistic version of how and why the war happened. Only a handful of films have shown some courage in displaying a different point of view.
I don't know what I am going to do next. I have things in my head that are closer to nightmares than to clear social/political themes. I would like to be clear, like Ken Loach. Right now I'm not able to be, because there is always something else that comes out of my head.
Genre-wise, your films are arthouse dramas, but both The Blacks and The Reaper have echoes of psychological thrillers, or even horror. Why do you decide to infuse them with these tropes?
I like to contrast lyrical and beautiful things with ugly and horrible things, and then see what happens, just like Isaac Babel did in Red Cavalry, a great book. I don't think about genre too much when I am making a film; I try not to think too much about what kind of film I am making. But you are right, these films do contain horror elements.
How do you pick your actors and work with them? In The Reaper in particular, casting is absolutely crucial.
I try to be nice to my actors – I can't work in an atmosphere of mistrust and fear. How can someone give you a good role if you don't trust them? Actors are children, and you are their parent.