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Tereza Nvotová • Director

“Our film is an attempt to break the silence”


- Cineuropa sat down with emerging Slovakian filmmaker Tereza Nvotová on the occasion of the world premiere of her feature debut, Filthy, at Rotterdam

Tereza Nvotová  • Director
(© Nikolas Tusl)

Slovakian filmmaker Tereza Nvotová has just unveiled her feature debut, Filthy [+see also:
film review
interview: Tereza Nvotová
film profile
, as a world premiere in the Bright Future section of the International Film Festival Rotterdam. Nvotová studied documentary at Prague’s FAMU and made a film called Take It Jeasy!, about faith and controversial Christian groups. She then continued her studies in fiction directing, a field in which she will graduate with Filthy. She is also a screenwriter and actress.

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Cineuropa: What was the impulse for Filthy?
Tereza Nvotová: It feels like the idea for the movie chose us. We've just known too many people who have lived through this story.

Were there any particular influences that shaped the film?
There wasn't any specific influence. We knew from the beginning that we wanted to tell the story from the main character's point of view. An early script was even written as a first-person narrative, so we could explore her feelings more subtly. From there, we could intuitively tweak the style in order to achieve the intensity of her experience.

The story of Filthy thematises the trauma that the victim suffers after a rape. Why did you decide on this angle?
A lot of films dealing with rape use it as some sort of climax. In our film, it's the initial event that sets our main character on a strange coming-of-age journey. We wanted to show the inner world of a rape survivor, and to destroy the myth that rape is something that happens on dark streets, to girls with short skirts, perpetrated by creepy strangers. Statistically, it's more likely to happen in our own homes, committed by people we know. That's also why most victims stay silent, and why the community and institutions fail to help them. Our film is a kind of shout, an attempt to break the silence.

The character of Lena, the protagonist, is crucial. How did you proceed during the casting process, and what qualities were you looking for?
During the auditions, I saw a lot of girls, actresses and non-actresses. It's hard to describe the moment when it clicks, when you see an actor becoming the character you have in your head. By the third callback, we had narrowed it down to just two girls, and I tortured them with the hardest scenes involving mental and physical breakdowns. Dominika Moravkova is the sort of actress you can't stop watching, because she's extremely authentic. I was looking for somebody who doesn't merely act, but is able to take on the emotions and mindset of the character.

The story was thoroughly researched. How did you prepare for scenes in the psychiatric ward?
The children's mental hospital where Lena winds up is not a fictional place. Slovak detention homes and mental hospitals for kids are mostly disgraceful. Most of the actors playing the kids in the hospital actually live in these places. I mixed them in with professional actors – who were told to keep the scene going – while the hospital kids were allowed to just go wild. It was not a problem for them.

Filthy revolves mainly around the social group of young adults. Besides personal and family drama, does your film have a generational quality?
To be honest, I don't really know how to label my film. I think that's somebody else's job. I don't know how much it says, especially about my generation. Of course, all of our decisions are somewhat shaped by where and when we grow up, but I think the experience of feeling lost and filthy after such a trauma is universal. My generation likes to think we live in a relatively open and just society, but I'm scared we're actually living in the Dark Ages.

You are currently working on a documentary about a controversial former political figure from your country. Are you already planning to work on your next project?
Yes, I'm editing the documentary now. Then I want to start working on the next feature with my scriptwriter. Usually, I'm doing more than one project at a time. Otherwise, I wouldn't have any money coming in, so I'm going to be involved in more stuff for sure.

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