Your new film blends in an original way fairytale and drama in a story which is above all about love, but to a certain extent it is also about the society, a story in which idyllic scenes alternate with black humor and grotesque, and fiction alternates with animation. How did you combine all these elements to put together this complex structure?
Since I observe and experience most things through images, and not so much through words, I had to find a way to say what I wanted in the best possible way. That is why this supposedly complex structure seems complicated, but to me it was much simpler. I tried to show everything that I felt in such way that when a spectator watched the film, he or she could experience the same feelings that I had - at least to a certain extent. The fact is that I was not sure what it would all look like when put together, but since there is the same prevailing emotion, I think that I was worried for no reason. When something is true, it is functional in any form.
Why did it take so long between the end of shooting and the premiere?
There are several reasons. Of course, the first and the most important one, which had the biggest impact, was financial in nature. Because the budget we had at our disposal was modest compared to the complexity of the project, there was a great deal of self-financing involved - both in terms of money and of human labor. And that led to delays. Then, at a certain point, I experienced a creative crisis because I had envisioned the animated part of the film much more ambitiously (in terms of duration), and so everything stopped again. We encountered many problems along the way. But, the important thing is that we returned to the film after such a long time and we decided that it should not be forgotten. Because, it is based on a story about forgotten people and love that everybody gradually forgets about. For that reason, perhaps this is the right moment for the film to be premiered.
Toghether with Dimitrije Vojnov and Nikola Pejaković, you co-wrote the script too. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the collaborative writing?
I think that it is always better to have an extra pair of hands, of course on the condition that we share an understanding about the main idea and about what we are trying to say. Sure, there will always be situations when someone disagrees with something and has a different opinion, but that is my role in the end to “cut the knot” and to take what I think works best regarding the film and the story. Dimitrije and Nikola are completely different types of writers in every respect, but this is exactly what I needed because, as we mentioned earlier, this is a film that merges the opposites.
A line from the film: “You can get lost if you do not have anyone to love, to fight for” sounds beautiful. However, is it perhaps too naïve in this time which is more inclined towards the search for profit and fun than for love?
Yes it is. And, in my opinion, it is the greatest tragedy of our time. Not wars, diseases, financial crises, ecological changes. These things also existed in the past yet the mankind somehow found ways to move forward. But today, love is slowly vanishing. Young people no longer hold hands, kiss each other in the street… Everything is digital and virtual. And that is why the superhero - who is in fact a metaphor of an ordinary man who lived sometime in the past and who lived for love, and now tries to remember what it was like - is trying to conjure this message to the boy Ilija. Because in the end love is going to save the world. Without love, there will be nothing.
Your film is incredibly rich visually. The set designer’s and the decorators’ jobs were probably very demanding, but also very satisfying. Certain locations are reminiscent, in a positive way, of the “Delicatessen.” Who were your influences while creating this aspect of the film?
To me, the set design is very important as a part of the atmosphere, together with photography and costumes. At the beginning of the process I told to Nenad Paranosić (set designer) what I wanted to accomplish with this film and what kind of atmosphere I was aiming for: timeless space, the feeling of abandonment and loneliness, and I think that he did it exceptionally. Each object looks just as I imagined it in my head. I was influenced by many films, never directly, but on the subconscious level there are certain images and atmosphere that I remembered and they are likely to reemerge. “Delicatessen” was probably one of them because it is one of my favorite films. Once I had finished filming and editing, while watching the film I specifically paid attention to spot these influences. And these are Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Red Desert,” Victor Erice’s “The Spirit of the Beehive,” David Lynch’s “Mulholland Dr.,” Darren Aronofsky’s “Requiem for a Dream,” Guillermo del Toro’s “The Devil’s Backbone.” These are the influences that I have somehow recognized, but there are probably others that I have not.
How did you collaborate with the cast in which, among famous faces, the boy Ilija charms everybody with his directness?
While we were working on the script I already envisioned the characters in my head. And what you see is exactly that. The entire cast is perfect in their roles and even if I could change something at this point - I would not change anything. By the way, Ilija is my son. He was seven at the time and he wanted to try his hand at acting, and I needed a child who I knew well and with whom I knew what I could get - especially because this is not a film for children and it deals with the “grown up” subjects. Ilija has always been mature beyond his age so I knew that he could do it in the best possible way, which he did.
Have you thought about the kind of audience that your bugs and heroes talk to?
This film will be loved by anyone who feels the emotion that we have been trying to transmit and who needs this film. To me personally, it is like a song which provokes a melancholic emotion in me, but at the same time it also gives hope in a strange way. Thus, I am certain that it will find its audience.
What does it mean to you to have your film premiered at FEST?
It means a lot. FEST was the first festival that I heard about and I watched the chronicles of FEST on TV. I remember that when I was a child I did everything I could to get a ticket to watch “E. T.” which was screened I think in 1983 at FEST. And I did not succeed. Thus, the fact that my film will be screened at FEST somehow feels like a compensation for that ticket.
What are your plans for further distribution of the film - in Serbia, but also abroad, because this film certainly shows the potential to be shown in international markets?
We will see after FEST, but we are surely going to send it to festivals. Concerning distribution - we will see, we will do our best.