Last night the awards ceremony of the 68th Berlinale was held. Two films on the program of this year’s FEST also won awards. Malgorzata Szumowska won Silver Bear - Grand Jury Prize for her film “Mug” which will close the 46th FEST. Elena Okopnaya won Silver Bear for outstanding artistic contribution in production design and costume design for the film “Dovlatov.” We talked to the actor Milan Marić who portrays the title role in this film.
You are coming to FEST straight after Berlinale and the world premiere of the film “Dovlatov” by Russian director Aleksey German Jr., in which you play the title role. What are your impressions about this prestigious festival?
The impressions are still quite fresh, but I have a feeling that we did a wonderful job. We are all very pleased with the outcome of the premiere, we received excellent reviews, many people congratulated us after the premiere, and they felt the urge to talk to me about the film and to share their impressions. All in all, it went pretty well.
How would you present this film, in which you portray Russian writer Sergei Dovlatov in Leningrad at the beginning of the 1970s, to the audience of FEST?
For me, this is a film about decisions, about courage, about possibilities and impossibilities, about the struggle between moral and reality, about love and freedom, about a particular man in a particular time, about principles and not giving up.
Did you take part in a Q&A in Berlin after the screening? We saw in media that the film received positive reviews of the critics - and what were the reactions of the general audience?
There wasn’t a Q&A session after the screening, but we did many interviews. What interested the journalists the most was whether I had heard about Dovlatov before signing up for this project, and how I learnt Russian language so quickly. And the “regular” audience felt the need to talk to me about the film and to discuss the emotions that they experienced while watching. Which scenes had an impact, where they felt that they could identify with the story. The reviews were the ones you could only wish for. I think that what interested them the most was the story about the courage of these people to fight the system and to defend their own artistic world at all costs, even at the cost of going to jail or leaving Russia. In other words, how they defended their own morality. This says a lot about all of us today - how much we lack this sort of courage today. And it is a universal failure, regardless of whether we are in Germany, Serbia or Russia.
Your name has appeared on the pages of the “Hollywood Reporter,” “Variety”… To what extent can this success open the door for you for further international projects?
Honestly, I still do not think about that. Things will happen, or they will not, we shall see. I am really happy that all this effort that we put in making of this film did not go unnoticed. There will be time. I do not want to rush into another international project at all costs.
How would you describe the experience of shooting in Russia, as a professional and a personal experience?
I grew up. And even I notice that. I spent six months in an unknown city, all by myself, with my own doubts, fears. I changed. Although, I do not separate my personal from my professional development because I think that in this line of work these things go in parallel. And that is the most beautiful and the most dangerous thing in this job.
How can you describe the collaboration with the director and the cast, including the popular Russian actor Danila Kozlovsky?
They took great care of me. They helped me enormously so that I would have enough space to do my job, and I am immensely grateful to them. I no longer consider certain people my colleagues - they are my friends now, as far as I am concerned. My Russian colleagues were fantastic. Danila is a big star in Russia, but you do not notice that in a bad sense - what you do notice is his professionalism, how much he loves his work, his patience. All in all, it was a phenomenal experience in every respect.
We have already watched you at FEST, although in smaller roles, in the films “The Good Wife” and “Humidity.” And do you watch films at FEST? What do you recommend from this year’s program?
I have been following FEST for years and I am really proud that we have such a festival. And what makes me the most proud is the fact that I am watching FEST grow year after year, and this is a big thing for Serbian film, for Belgrade and Serbia. We ought to be grateful to Jugoslav Pantelić and to all people who organize FEST - I say a big thank you. I would recommend many films - besides “Dovlatov” and international hits, I would like to invite people not to miss Serbian films.