Andrius Blazevicius • Director
by Natalie Movshovych
- Andrius Blazevicius’ debut film, The Saint, an ironic drama that takes a close look at the 2008 financial crisis, was unveiled at the 32nd Warsaw International Film Festival
Andrius Blazevicius’ debut film The Saint [+see also:
interview: Andrius Blazevicius
film profile], a Lithuanian-Polish co-production, world-premiered in the 1-2 Competition for first and second features at the 32nd Warsaw International Film Festival. The ironic drama with comic touches is set in a Lithuanian provincial town in 2008 as in the midst of the economic crisis. It follows the life of Vytas, a husband and father in his early thirties who has just been fired. Cineuropa sat down with the Lithuanian director in Warsaw to talk about the film.
Cineuropa: Why did you decide to address the financial crisis in your first feature?
Andrius Blazevicius: The 2008 financial crisis was pretty harsh in Lithuania and still has a huge effect on society today. The majority of workers were fired, causing a lot of immigration. Over the course of just under ten years, we lost a quarter of the population. However, everyone back home avoids that topic and nobody talks about it in art. Instead of asking questions and trying to understand what is happening, people just watch entertaining films. That's why I believe it was imperative that I make a realistic movie. It's much more worthwhile than a comedy, and when people watch it in 20, 30 or 50 years, they will still remember what was going on then. It may be very risky and pretentious of me to say this, but I am sure it will become a classic in Lithuania.
How did your own experience influence the storyline?
2008 was quite a challenging year for me, personally. I had just graduated from film school when the crisis struck. Everything started to fall apart and there were no jobs. Friends and relatives were leaving the country, not just because they wanted to do something different and fun with their life, but because they needed to survive. So the storyline is mainly based on my own experience and that of the people I know. Vytas’ ridiculous job interview is identical to something that actually happened to me. But, of course, some parts are fictitious.
Let’s discuss the title’s significance, as Vytas sometimes seems anything but a saint...
Actually, the working title was Crisis, but I knew we would change it from the very beginning. The reason is that the Lithuanians are fed up with this topic and no-one would go to a movie with that title. Besides that, I thought that a title that references the protagonist would help to tell more about the film itself in a metaphorical manner. Vytas may occasionally act like a big asshole, but he is just a victim of his environment and times. And, as we all know, saints are generally victims in one way or another.
Vytas is a relatively ordinary man. Why did you choose to portray such a non-sensational individual?
He’s a very typical character, and represents 70 percent of our country. He has deep emotions and personal trauma, but he doesn’t show it. In Lithuania, men are raised that way: they are not supposed to show emotions or talk about their problems, and just have to get over it by themselves. In films we often see these heroes who have lost their job, and they are fighting against the system. The truth is that you usually don't fight; you just sit around doing nothing all day long, which is really hard. And that's when you start to reflect. Because of what is happening to him, this idiot starts to think properly for the first time.
The movie opens and closes with a mockery of religion.
People tend to turn to religion when they are weak, because they need something to hold onto. I was raised in a Catholic family and I am religious myself, but I don't believe in the institution of church. For instance, when you go to confession, the priest isn’t supposed to behave like a psychotherapist and he just doesn't care about what you have to say. It's one big fakery to me, with no salvation to be found there. Moreover, I believe that love, Jesus and money are three universal topics in life. My future films will also address them.