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"All those layers of personality that are complicated and overlapping"

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Zrinko Ogresta • Director


- Croatian director Zrinko Ogresta, whose seventh feature, On the Other Side, world-premiered in the Berlinale's Panorama, talks about his filmmaking principles and his view of the world

Zrinko Ogresta  • Director

Cineuropa: On the Other Side [+see also:
film review
film focus
interview: Tihana Lazovic
interview: Zrinko Ogresta
film profile
 is your first film since Here that deals directly with the social and political consequences of the war in Croatia.
Zrinko Ogresta: I've had this issue in mind for years, and I wanted to make a film about it, but I never got to find a screenwriter who would do it with me the way I imagined it. It even went so far that I got "sick of it", so I made some other films in the meantime. Then I met [author and composer, and co-writer on the film] Mate Matisić,and we clicked both professionally and personally while working on this script. I have to admit that in making a film I'm not primarily interested in the storytelling, and this is exactly what he excels in.

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The implications the film offers as "food for thought" are much wider than its subject matter.
This is a film about forgiveness and about whether we can forgive without hurting others. I was trying to convey a humanist attitude, which I believe all of us living here in the Balkans have to adopt if we are going to keep living as neighbours. But it is also about human complexity, all those layers of personality that are complicated and overlapping.

How did you choose the actors and work with them?
I’ve never finished a screenplay without knowing the cast. I like to keep an open mind regarding the choice of actors. Very soon after Mate and I were happy with the version of the screenplay we had, I decided that the main roles would go to Ksenija Marinković and Lazar Ristovski. They are both brilliant actors, strongly suggestive and very emotionally expressive. And they are also very intelligent.

Working with them was a very thorough process. Lazar came to four rounds of rehearsals in Zagreb. We actually talked about the characters more than rehearsing in the traditional way. It was extremely important to have absolutely no misunderstandings about the characters. We also consulted a psychiatrist about particular situations that the characters end up in. I can really say that as a director, I also had to get through to the "other side of the mind" in order to properly direct the actors and build up the film to its climax.

As in your previous films, the characters and the action are frequently deep in the shot, behind windows or doors.
I try to stay away from interpreting my own films and methods. They seem to always get trivialised as soon as I say something about them. So I will just say that the title of the film, On the Other Side, has a metaphorical meaning in terms of both form and content. It also means "on the other side of the mind" because the actions of the characters are often beyond the rational; actually, they are very irrational. Also, the way in which images are shown is "on the other side" – often, there is an obstacle between the camera and the character in the shot, as if it were being observed from the sidelines. 

Every scene consists of one uninterrupted shot. I'm happy that no one who has seen the film spotted this, because if they did, it would be a "visible" part of the approach – it would seem forced. I did this primarily to have the images look as authentic as possible, to create a feeling that there is no manipulation of reality. 

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