When audiences hear that the film has no dialogue, some are scared, they think the film is completely abstract, essayistic, a constrained artistic film, but no, I love drama! I like to use the rule that Thomas Vinterberg spoke of - to put your hero in the worst possible situation at the beginning, and from that moment on everything goes downhill.
What is the difference in the approach to writing screenplays for a film without dialogue? What does this screenplay look like?
You cannot tell every story without a dialogue, and when you tell a story without dialogue, it is usually simple on the surface, but my goal is to get to a deeper experience, a visual-spiritual experience. The script itself seems to be extremely technical and you might think it is just a script without dialogue, but the rest of the script must tell the story. So there is no help of words to construct a narrative. It takes a lot of thinking in order to find a way to show something that would otherwise be expressed with words very quickly. So, we can say it is a hard job. The script is usually a bit shorter, maybe sixty to seventy pages, and in order to communicate well with the crew, I usually do storyboard as well. In the end, this final product looks more or less like a comic book.
Do you draw a storyboard as well?
I am not that good at drawing. Yes, I draw it, but usually when I am working on a film, I cooperate with an art director.
Is it more difficult to work with actors when there is a dialogue or when there is none?
Directing with dialogue is very easy, but for me it is very difficult, because it is boring to me. That is something I would personally leave to television. It is all about the casting. You would not want to take the risk of starting the shooting with a person you did not meet at the audition first. Also, I think it is encouraging for actors to make improvisations before committing to collaboration. I would only work with actors who feel comfortable in a situation when they do not speak. Many actors feel privileged, excited and inspired by visual narrative, but also many actors do not succeed and feel insecure and there is nothing that I could do. So it all comes down to choosing the right actors for this type of film.
Do you think the film is cleaner if it communicates without words?
For me, that is the essence of the film. But I am not a missionary. I also like to watch films with dialogue, and if many directors now started making films without dialogue, it would take away from what is special about my work and what sets me apart.
You do not have the help of words, but the sound in the film is stylized and striking.
There are some idiots that say I make silent films, which brings my crew working with the sound to the edge of a nervous breakdown. Because it is actually quite the opposite. When you do not have a dialogue, you have a lot of work, because when you do have a dialogue, it fills up space for other sounds, and in all other parts without dialog, you add some music. When you do not have a dialogue, you have the space to be innovative and creative so you can make the film interesting. Usually, I work a lot longer on the sound than on the picture itself.
Do you play an instrument?
Yes, but I am not that good. We recorded the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra, they are quite professional! But, yes, I went to Los Angeles with composer Cyril Morin and sat for ProTools for a week and I looked at each note and told him what I wanted to change. The sound is crucial and necessary for me. Although the film does not have a dialogue, we did an acoustic synchronization with each actor individually, so we could record their breathing. Breathing is something that contains emotion. You can breathe excitedly, you can breathe "boringly", and you can breathe fearfully, so breathing can contain any emotion. Usually, in the film, you rarely hear breathing, because the microphone is out of range. But that is why I accepted this challenge, to invite actors to the studio and record breathing.
Essentially, you used a classic dramaturgy?
Basically, yes. When audiences hear that the film has no dialogue, some are scared, they think the film is completely abstract, essayistic, a constrained artistic film, but no, I love drama! I like to use the rule that Thomas Vinterberg spoke of - to put your hero in the worst possible situation at the beginning, and from that moment on everything goes downhill.
In the end, you made the whole circle?
It was important for me that he did not find the owner of the brassiere. In some ways, the idea of the end is a kind of a shortcut. Every elderly man in his village has his granddaughter with whom he goes fishing. And for him (engine driver, Predrag Miki Manojlović), finding the owner is not about him getting married or having sexual intercourse, but about finding his family. The solution he finds is essentially a smart decision, because he does not have to take this woman to expensive dinners and change baby's diapers. He finds his grandson right away.
I had the impression that he still knew in front of whose house he found the lingerie on the drying wire. Because they have some kind of interaction every day.
When he was passing by and saw her, it was dark, at night ... Well, in the end, when he sees the knickers that match the bra, he knows who it belongs to, but in the end he changes his aspirations and ideals and it does not matter to him anymore. Let us say it this way: In the beginning, the bra was just a piece of garment that became the object of his obsession to find a woman of his life, but when he finds happiness in his adopted son, he returns to the drying wire and this bra becomes just a piece of garment again. There are no more fantasies that getting acquainted with this owner will somehow make him happy. It is emptiness.
He is not lonely anymore? Is he finally at peace?
Yes. Very. This is not the end that is expected, but it is a happy ending.