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VENICE 2020 International Film Critics' Week

Marat Sargsyan • Director of The Flood Won’t Come

“When there is no information about war, there is no war”


- VENICE 2020: We talked to Marat Sargsyan, director of International Film Critics' Week competitor The Flood Won’t Come – even though he has taken an oath

Marat Sargsyan • Director of The Flood Won’t Come

Shown at this year’s International Film Critics’ Week, Marat Sargsyan’s The Flood Won’t Come [+see also:
film review
interview: Marat Sargsyan
film profile
is trying to answer the ultimate question: if a war happens and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Cineuropa: When presenting the project at the Meeting Point Vilnius, you mentioned that “what happens in war is not very important. What’s important is what we see and hear about it.” What did you mean?
Marat Sargsyan:
Our whole understanding about different faraway events, including wars being fought, comes about thanks to the information we receive. Thanks to these sources, we create an image of them and, later, according to that, we form an opinion. Therefore, when there is no information about war, there is no war.

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Another thing – what kind of information do we receive? Russian people receive a certain kind of information about the war in Syria or Ukraine, Turkish and Chinese citizens get another version of it, so do Europeans, and North Koreans may not receive any information at all. No one will go to the place where these events take place to find out what is really happening. This way, information becomes more important than the events themselves. Today, a great share of it is received via YouTube and at the same time, all the related subjects can be found in the same place – here, people watch everything. If something is boring, we just skip to the next video. We need it to be interesting, whether it’s war or a panda that just gave birth. I suspect we got to the point where what we see or hear has become more important to us than what is really happening. The quality of our engagement has become the most important thing, at least until the events start to affect us physically.

I seem to remember that the stories in the film were gathered from different wars, that they actually took place in some way or another. Which is a scary thought, especially considering the sheep!
Some stories, or rather events, I have experienced during my teenage years. But in our film, the stories don’t mean anything on their own, they were “corrected” to support the main idea. I didn’t have the intention to tell the story in a long documentary narrative. In relation to the scene with the sheep, my older friends told me about it. I was 14 years old at the time and I worked at a small TV station as a cameraman. They were volunteers who fought defending my homeland – I was like a younger brother to them. When they would briefly return home, they would always come to the TV station and tell stories from the war zone. Once, they were conducting an operation to free a village occupied by enemy soldiers. The enemies turned it into a military base and took with them the residents they did not murder as prisoners. This is where they saw the “action,” in the barn with the sheep.

Your main protagonist is so experienced, and yet his experience is ultimately of no use. He can’t really change anything, he can just observe. 
He has become, in a certain sense, an impotent of war. He understands perfectly that decisions are made by the people beyond the military zone and he is not a part of that group. Once upon a time, he was the one who made all the decisions, but back then the wars took place not in his country. Now, he is just a pawn in their hands. Without looking at the whole storyline of the protagonist, I tried to prevent him from becoming a person one can identify with. I tried to create this buffer between him and the audience. If the film would be your usual drama, it would lose its whole meaning, as the viewer would focus too much on his psychological condition. Our man is more like a guide; he doesn’t let the viewers identify with him but he leads them. He is like war: unclear until the very end, tired and meaningless.

There are many shots of people sneaking a peak at others, hidden away or with their view obscured in some way. Why? To show that this is not quite the “official” look at war?
There is a war taking place in the film — or is there really? Where is this war, and who are these soldiers? And really, what is happening here?! I wanted the viewer to be accompanied by these questions. You can witness the action from so many points of view in the film: from below, from above, through dirty windows, through thermal vision. My answer might not be eloquent or clear, because it seems to me that film directors, when they become film directors, should take an oath – just like doctors do. Instead of the Hippocratic Oath, it could be the Lumière or Antonioni Oath, where this clause would be mentioned as well: “I promise to not publicly reveal the idea I have created in the film. And not take away the pleasure from the viewers, who should be able to experience the film in their own way.”

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