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GOEAST 2022

Vahagn Khachatryan and Aren Malakyan • Directors of 5 Dreamers and a Horse

“We decided to film three generations in order to come up with a portrait of this entire society”

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- The filmmakers talk about some of the ideas behind their movie, their relationship with the characters and the images of Armenian society that lurk behind their portraits

Vahagn Khachatryan and Aren Malakyan • Directors of 5 Dreamers and a Horse
Vahagn Khachatryan (left) and Aren Malakyan

After premiering at Visions du Réel, 5 Dreamers and a Horse [+see also:
film review
interview: Vahagn Khachatryan and Aren…
film profile
]
by Armenian directorial duo Vahagn Khachatryan and Aren Malakyan has just been shown within the main competition of the goEast Film Festival, where we spoke to them. Khachatryan and Malakyan created their poetic documentary as a co-production with Germany’s Color of May, which is behind other successful projects from the region, such as Otar’s Death [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Ioseb 'Soso' Bliadze
film profile
]
and End of Season [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
. The filmmakers talk to us about some of the ideas behind their movie, their relationship with the characters and the images of Armenian society that lurk behind their portraits.

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Cineuropa: Your dreaming characters seem as if they do not touch the ground; they have isolated themselves from the reality they inhabit, like escapists.
Vahagn Khachatryan:
We focused on people from three generations who are a little bit stuck in their respective eras. Karen is still within this traditional, patriarchal culture. Then we have the woman who is stuck in the Soviet era, in the lift, with its sounds. And the queer girls are from the present day, but they don’t feel welcome in it, so they spend most of their time on the roof. So yes, they are escaping from their realities by not really being closely in touch with them. And every one of them has found their own safe place. For Karen, that is the horse; for Melania, the open space; and for the girls, their relationship, the isolation of being together.

Is the surrounding reality so traumatic that they would rather not stay in touch with it?
VK:
We are not really judging reality; it’s more about the characters’ private space. I, myself, have my own small corner where I dream, remain silent and don’t speak to anyone. The idea was more to depict those small corners where we try to be ourselves. This is one aspect, and the other is related to the pressure from the surrounding environment, which we are not at peace with – it makes us feel anxious.

And you chose not to tackle specific, distressing issues within the surroundings, but rather to focus on the characters’ inner lives.
VK:
On one hand, that is true; on the other, in the case of Karen, we understand a great deal about the mentality of the place that he inhabits – how history relates to people there, how time has stopped. In a way, that is also beautiful.

How did you meet the characters and decide to create this group portrait? Not only do they represent various generations, but they are also very different from one another.
Aren Malakyan:
We decided to film three generations in order to come up with a portrait of this entire society. Our imagination works at full speed, so we started thinking about the film based around two characters that we already knew. Karen is Vahagn’s nephew, so he has known him forever, and I am currently making a movie with the working title Waldemar, about a Stalinist cinephile who dreams of going to Paris. And then we started to include more characters in order to understand, through their contradictions, what we were looking for. At the beginning, we had seven characters, but we ended up with three stories, which also reflect the three generations.

Viewers can tell that you have the closest connection with Karen, as it is obvious. But how did you get his permission to film some of the intimate scenes, like the one with the prostitute in his car, for example?
VK:
We had a lot of fun with him during the shooting process; he really enjoyed it because it was also a way for him to escape his reality. So he was okay with that scene, and from time to time, he also pushed us to shoot certain things from a certain angle. In a way, he participated in the directing process as well.

And what about the other characters?
AM:
Before we even found Melania, we had been looking for a person who worked as a lift attendant in a hospital, which is a remnant of the Soviet era. Then I went to this small hospital and I met her – in the initial footage I recorded with her, she told me how she had dreamed of becoming an astronaut as a child. We immediately decided to include her, and in order to film her, we put a camera in the lift. The fact that the lift was being renovated during the entire film is also a reflection of the buildings left over from Soviet times, which we are still stuck in and which are yet to be demolished. But at the same time, when the new lift is installed, there is an explosion, which represents our present, somewhat.

VK: As for the queer couple, it took us a long time to get close to them – it required a lot of trust, especially since we are men. We became good friends after several years of nurturing our relationship, but the fact that they work as musicians also helped a lot.

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