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Mladen Djordjević • Director of Working Class Goes to Hell

“I wanted to depict the never-ending cycle of violence and harassment”


- The Serbian director discusses his aesthetics, the difficulty of filming certain types of scenes, as well as his view of society and how his films reflect it

Mladen Djordjević  • Director of Working Class Goes to Hell
(© Promo Content Studio Toronto)

Serbian director Mladen Djordjević's new film, Working Class Goes to Hell [+see also:
film review
interview: Mladen Djordjević
film profile
, is having its European premiere at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival after its bow in Toronto's Midnight Madness strand. We talked to the director about his aesthetics, the difficulty of filming certain types of scenes, as well as about his view of society and how his films reflect it.

Cineuropa: When one thinks of the film, one might first remember the numerous group scenes. Can you tell us a bit about those?
Mladen Djordjević:
The feeling I get of my immediate reality and the wider society in this country is that it's a constantly crowded, chaotic, cacophonous environment. I use late-night buses, and I like going to packed pubs. When I was growing up, our family house was always full of refugees, so I've always felt like I was surrounded by crowds of people. This is what I brought into the film with the group scenes.

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In the society I live in, individuality is not very strong, but egotism is. And because egotism doesn't mean anything on its own, these people want to be in a group – not because of their love for their neighbour, but to feed and assert their ego.

Was it difficult to film these group scenes?
I've had a lot of those in my other films, especially The Life and Death of a Porno Gang, where the main character is a group, just like in Working Class Goes to Hell. For this to work, it's important to rehearse a lot because it helps the actors feel safe, and there are many non-professional actors in these scenes, whose faces add to the authenticity.

Most people think it's difficult to direct such scenes because they are fascinated with the numerous details, so it seems complicated. But it's way harder to direct scenes with only two people in the shot. Here, the most difficult things were the sex scenes and intimate sequences between Mija [Leon Lučev] and Svetlana [Tamara Krcunović] because they were needed to create a contrast with the brutality of the rest of the film, with the roughness, the violence, the darkness. So these were the most challenging, as were the scenes with Danica [Lidija Kordić], who is a very subtle character, almost like a ghost. She adds subtlety to all this ruckus and chaos. Her scenes at the workers' resort are also the most horror-like in the film.

There is less blood and violence in the feature than one would expect.
I wanted this film to be more reality-based and not to go into very graphic violence. Here it's about psychological violence and an atmosphere of hopelessness. It's a snapshot of a society that has already been raped numerous times, very brutally, so there is no violence left.

It's important to say that my idea was not to allow for a catharsis in the end. There are many revenge movies that end with catharsis, but I intentionally wanted to avoid that because my characters go through a complicated journey, and in the end, they realise that strength is neither in God nor in the Devil. I believe it's much more important for the heroes to arrive at their own inner realisation.

There are no real heroes in the film. When the protagonists get in a position of power, they become the same as their persecutors.
Exactly. I wanted to depict a cycle of violence and harassment that never ends, an unstoppable mechanism in which the victim becomes a victimiser. In a sense, this is a critique of revolution. I don't believe revolutions happen in society in an external way; the real revolutions happen inside of people. What we call “revolution” is a trick, like a reality show. The existing centres of power remain in their ruling position by masquerading as another centre of power – this is what I am fighting against in all of my films.

How did you cast the actors and work with them?
Both Leon Lučev and Tamara Krcunović have amazing powers of transformation, and they were both completely dedicated. For the other characters, it was a long casting process with my assistant, Nikola Todorović, and all of the members of the cast really contributed to the group dynamic. But it was all about the rehearsals; we rehearsed a lot, and that was the key.

The score by Bulgarian composer Kalin Nikolov is impressive; how did you work on it?
We worked on it a lot because the score really combines music and the sound design by Alexandru Dumitru. The score consists of simple elements, but when they’re put together, it's very strong and goes a long way to creating the atmosphere. I'm very happy with it.

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