Petr Vaclav • Director
“The finished films I received grants for are only the tip of the iceberg”
- Cineuropa sat down with Czech filmmaker Petr Vaclav on the occasion of the North American premiere of his latest feature, We Are Never Alone, at Toronto
The Way Out [+see also:
interview: Petr Václav
film profile] marked Petr Vaclav’s comeback to feature filmmaking after a 13-year hiatus. Before finishing the social drama that focused on marginalised members of the Roma community, he was already preparing his next project, We Are Never Alone [+see also:
interview: Petr Vaclav
film profile], a harrowing parable about modern society that is now screening at the Toronto International Film Festival. The Czech filmmaker is still busy, having finished his next road movie, Skokan [+see also:
film profile], while also managing to shoot the documentary Confession of the Vanished [+see also:
film profile], about Josef Mysliveček, one of the greatest composers of Italian opera in the 18th century. Vaclav is currently also beginning preparations for Il Boemo, a historical drama based on the real life story of this composer.
Cineuropa: The Way Out, We Are Never Alone and Skokan form a loosely connected trilogy. How did this trilogy come to be?
Petr Vaclav: The Way Out, We Are Never Alone and Skokan definitely have a lot in common, although they were not planned as a trilogy. The films have neither the same characters, nor the same themes; stylistically, each one is different. On the other hand, I have worked with the same actors and the same crew, and we shot all three films very fast, one after another (the movies were shot between 2013 and 2015). The Roma and their existence on the fringes of society play a crucial role in the films.
What were the main driving forces behind We Are Never Alone?
First of all, I wanted to create characters who would carry on with their individual themes and stories. There is no main storyline and no main character – there are eight protagonists and their stories. Some of them are willing to exchange the freedom they got 25 years ago for fictitious security and egoistic wealth. Although they do comment on and criticise the general moral and social decline, they give up their responsibility for society. The main male characters are confused by the modern heterogenic and constantly changing world. That is why they hate the European Union, which they see as the source of globalisation and therefore their troubles. They do not see their existence as good luck or a challenge, and they drown themselves in depression, aggression, fear and hatred. The coexistence of the resignation of some people and others’ faith in life is eternal – I saw it in my grandparents’ generation, and I also see it in my peers’ generation. And it is as true in the Czech Republic as it is anywhere else.
After the release of The Way Out, people frequently compared it to your feature debut, Marian, whereas We Are Never Alone differs in substance and form from both of them. Why did you opt for a more experimental venture?
Because I do not want to shoot the same films all the time, and also because times change. Years passed between Marian and these films. Having a signature style, in my opinion, does not mean shooting in the same way, following the same method. Furthermore, the finished films I received grants for are only the tip of the iceberg of all my intentions, visions and plans. But the truth is that any filmmaker desires a much greater variety of themes and formal styles than they manage to achieve in the end.
Contrary to The Way Out, you use irony and humour in We Are Never Alone.
It would be boring to depict a raw, sad topic in a raw, sad way. I focus on well-fed Central Europeans who blame the state of the world for their personal nihilism. They blame society, politics, general decline, Roma and immigrants for their personal failures. The female characters and children in We Are Never Alone are different: they are stronger and more positive than men. Against all the obstacles and the nihilism of the men, those women march onwards because they live for their children, and the children look to the future with restless hope, despite a rough start to their lives.
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