Sharunas Bartas • Director
“Speaking straight from the soul”
by Fabien Lemercier
- CANNES 2015: Sharunas Bartas, the director of Peace to Us in Our Dreams, presented in the Directors' Fortnight, explains his anti-method of working
Just like his films, likeable Lithuanian filmmaker Sharunas Bartas is not keen on putting his work into words. Nevertheless, he accepted an interview with Cineuropa after the world premiere of Peace to Us in Our Dreams [+see also:
interview: Sharunas Bartas
film profile], in the Directors' Fortnight at the 68th Cannes Film Festival.
Cineuropa: In the past, did you consider the screenplay as a fairly negligible phase in your work? And what about for Peace to Us in Our Dreams?
Sharunas Bartas: It’s not that I don’t enjoy writing the screenplays; I have written a few. But when I was 17 years old, I was certain that I would become a writer, so when I write, I don’t take it lightly, and it takes up too much energy, energy that is greatly needed for filming. It has already happened to me, when I was truly concentrated on a screenplay and I realised at the end that it was already over because I had nothing left to offer. Since a few films ago, I've been working with a synopsis of two to ten pages, simply the storyline and the intentions, but that is no problem in terms of financing because everyone knows I work like that and people accept it. Afterwards, I write a plan for myself, sequence by sequence with a sentence for each scene: someone goes here and does this, someone says this, etc. And I have all the scenes on one or two pages. It is a truly necessary step, and I give those one or two pages to my crew, who work, according to what the scenes are, on finding settings, actors, etc. I can do everything without a complicated process weighing me down. I never tell the actors anything, and I don't even tell the crew exactly what to expect. It is unnecessary, since it is all very fragile: we must capture the moments that arise naturally, and that cannot happen when the scenes are totally written out. I have been on the sets of Leos Carax or Claire Denis films, and they have huge screenplays that took them two years to write. I had a few small lines, but I delivered them in my own way, and that flew perfectly with them. I’m not sure if we can call that improvising or not. That works when actors want and know how to adapt.
You want the viewer to be completely free to have their own interpretations. But why do you not want to explain anything?
There is nothing to explain. I don’t like the word “art”, but it is indeed art. In art, there is nothing to explain. It is more about raising questions or showing something. In general, in literature, in paintings, in music and in cinema, what we can do is show a piece of peoples’ lives. Our souls are very close, but we are all very isolated and we cannot see who we are from the outside. By showing these pieces of life of certain people, we can take a step back, we can just feel that we are close to them and feel less alone. That's the main reason: being close to someone who is speaking straight from the soul, something that differs from the kind of dialogue we regularly have in our day-to-day lives.
In Peace to Us in Our Dreams, the character of the father expresses his perspective on life to his daughter. It is a surprising moment in your filmography
I have made a lot of films without dialogue. With my first film, I started out with dialogue, but then I realised that this did not correspond with who the actors were, and they started to suffer because of it and not play by the rules. So I had to get rid of the dialogue after three days, and I decided that we could do without it. When we work with a human face, we can see in their eyes and facial expressions what they want to say, sometimes even more. As for the moment in the film you mentioned, it took me 20 years to reach that type of dialogue, for it to be real and natural.
Was it easy to finance the film?
I have seen better, but I have also seen worse. I made some films where I didn’t even think about the budget. I produced my first documentary, a 25-minute film shot in the mountains in Siberia, in a place we could only access by helicopter. That was 30 years ago, and since then, much has happened in cinema, financing in Europe, accessing films via the internet, etc. Adapting is essential.
(Translated from French)
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