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KARLOVY VARY 2021 East of the West

Šimon Holý • Director of Mirrors in the Dark

“These are questions that people don’t usually ask each other”

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- The director talks to Cineuropa about his film, which hinges on a test that tells us whether we are romantically compatible with our partners

Šimon Holý • Director of Mirrors in the Dark
(© Film Servis Festival Karlovy Vary)

Playing in the East of the West Competition at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, Mirrors in the Dark [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Šimon Holý
film profile
]
sees a couple take a “love test” in a desperate attempt to save their relationship. In making the feature, director Šimon Holý was inspired by the films of the Czechoslovak New Wave.

Cineuropa: Can you talk about the test developed by psychologist Arthur Aron and why people are taking something designed for strangers meeting for the first time in order to save their relationship? Aren’t relationships already destined to fail if you need to take the test?
Šimon Holý:
That was my question: whether or not we are predestined to fail. Other people from the crew took the test with their partners. Some of them fell even more in love. Alena Doláková, who plays Marie, the main character, the dancer, actually got engaged very soon after taking the test. Her partner said that this set of questions made them so much more in love with each other. Even if you don’t fall in love with each other, I think that the set of questions is really good in terms of just getting to know someone because they are very direct questions about your life and your thoughts, and these are questions that people don’t usually ask each other.

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You concentrate almost exclusively on Marie and don’t even show the face of her lover: why is that?
As I thought she was the main hero and that I should just watch her, I also wanted to play this game with the audience. I wanted them to hear the voice, and think about what the guy looks like and the problem between them because the couple are not happy.

How did you want the play that she performs to tie in with the relationship questions?
We start the performance with the final phrases from these plays – Hedda Gabler, Nora: A Doll’s House and Maryša – and then we go back to the beginning. That is what we are doing in the movie: we start with the end and then get to the start. Time is not linear, not straightforward; it’s timeless.

You have shot in black and white, and the film is very formal; why did you make these choices?
I knew from the beginning that the movie was about the fear of mediocrity and about people who are frustrated. I usually think, and I took this from my personal life, that when I feel mediocre, I feel like I’m not moving anywhere. There are no high contrasts, no high highs, no low lows; it’s just not moving at all, which is also why we chose this timelessness to show the state of the relationship. Black and white was then the first choice because I knew that every colour would suggest something and give you an idea of random things. I thought black and white would be the main platform to communicate between the audience and the main characters, and between the characters themselves, so you can see something and form your own opinion on it. Colours always push ideas.

The film is about millennials, and yet you’ve gone against the grain with the pacing.
That’s kind of funny, isn’t it? A lot of people are telling us that they thought millennials were all about fast pacing and quick cuts, but I felt that when we, as humans, discuss something that is serious, we take our time, and it’s a different type of pacing.

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