Michal Hogenauer • Director of A Certain Kind of Silence
“It is necessary to find your own film language and your own poetics”
- Cineuropa talked to debutant Czech filmmaker Michal Hogenauer about his movie A Certain Kind of Silence, the banality of evil, genre filmmaking and minimalism
Czech writer-director Michal Hogenauer introduced his feature debut, A Certain Kind of Silence [+see also:
interview: Michal Hogenauer
film profile], in the East of the West competition at the 54th edition of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Cineuropa caught up with the emerging filmmaker to talk about his debut, his sources and the influences that shaped it, as well as genre and minimalist filmmaking in general.
Cineuropa: The story of your feature debut changed over the course of the seven years during which it was in development. What led to the final form, given that a slightly different story was announced initially?
Michal Hogenauer: When I started, there were several sources. One of them was the topic of manipulation and the process of manipulation – how an individual manipulates another individual and how society manipulates people. Another source was Philip Zimbardo and the banality of evil. That fascinated me in terms of what is going on around us – such as terrorism, for example. I was also interested in those student-exchange programmes, like Erasmus, how people leave and how relationships between partners and parents are easily torn apart. And gradually, these strands started to overlap. After there were enough sources, it took some time to find the simplest and most minimalist form for the story.
You worked as a festival programmer during the preparation of A Certain Kind of Silence. Were you able to separate the roles of writer-director and programmer?
Watching debut movies by filmmakers younger than me and seeing what has been happening in cinema has naturally influenced me, in both a good and a bad way. On one hand, it showed me that it is possible to shoot a film, and that there are a lot of movies out there that are actually not that good but which tend to circulate anyway.
Did you revise your script in light of these circumstances?
The original story followed a student on Erasmus who starts working in a café, and there, she meets a community living on a farm in a forest. That was the first version of the script. Then, I realised that I had seen quite a lot of films with hippie communities just like this. At that point, I started to change the story and shift it from a larger community to a single family. Naturally, there are several movies that have touched upon this topic, such as Martha Marcy May Marlene by Sean Durkin. That is one such film that I see a similarity with, as well as the works of Yorgos Lanthimos. Michael Haneke is also an influence to a certain extent, in terms of visual and film language. But it doesn’t mean that anybody would want to copy all of these filmmakers. It is necessary to find your own film language and your own poetics. After we wrapped the shoot, I saw the documentary miniseries Wild Wild Country, and this perfectly encapsulated everything I had studied for my film.
A Certain Kind of Silence may appear to be a social horror, and it almost seems like you are veering into genre filmmaking. Did you consider this while making the movie?
I love genre films, most notably thrillers, but the problem with them is that they are often predictable. However, at the same time, they are attractive to the audience because of their atmosphere and suspense. And Haneke and Lanthimos can work with this very well while still employing minimalist means. That’s what fascinates me – when the film language, framing and camerawork can be so simple but the results can be so staggering. And that is something I wanted to try in my movie.
There are several similarities between your film and Adam Sedlák’s Domestique [+see also:
interview: Adam Sedlák
film profile]. Would you agree?
Our films were made in parallel, and we are friends, so we discussed our projects. But that doesn’t mean we influenced each other’s scripts; we just knew what the other one was working on, and we had the same number of shooting days, 25. We also like similar films: the ones I have mentioned are Adam’s favourite filmmakers as well, in addition to Chantal Akerman and Roman Polanski. So you can find some similar motifs, colour palettes or sound design, for example. We belong to the same generation, and we have similar tastes, but I do not believe that this is anything symptomatic of contemporary Czech cinema.
Are you already preparing your sophomore feature?
Seven years ago, I had two projects in mind. One was a drama about a children’s camp, and the other was the story of a student-cum-au pair. We got financial backing for A Certain Kind of Silence, so I postponed the first one at the time, and now I am returning to it. It’s envisaged as a combination of Haneke’s The White Ribbon [+see also:
interview: Michael Haneke
film profile] and Dirty Dancing.
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