07 November 2014, 15:02
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Dutch Film Director, Jos Stelling, tells about new film the Girl and Death

The Dutch film director Jos Stelling is a permanent guest of the Golden Apricot Film Festival. His most recent picture, The Girl and Death, is scheduled for screening at Moscow Cinema on July 11 as part of the Yerevan Premiers program..

Mr. Stelling, this is already the fourth time you have come to Armenia. Do you remember your first visit?
- I have some Armenian friends in the Netherlands. One of them is Hayk Balyan, a good film director and, at the same time, the General Manager of the Amsterdam Zoo. Frankly speaking, I don’t really know how it happened. When I said I was going to Armenia he was so excited he told me all about the history of your nation. And when I arrived in Armenia, I discovered that you have amazing beer here. By the way, I was very surprised when they told me that there is no apricot beer in Armenia. But luckily I acquired some tasty apricot pills which I took to the Netherlands and added to my beer; it turned out to be very good! As for Yerevan, it resembles modern European cities, much more so than, say, Tbilisi. But it seems to be growing too quickly. In a word, I always come here with great pleasure; it has become a home to me.

Last time you came to Yerevan with your film Duska, a comedy-drama. This time it is The Girl and Death, in which there are again some Russian influences present: one of the characters, in particular, is again portrayed by Sergei Makovetsky.
- This one is a love story which is very easy to describe. The formula is the following: a man and a woman want to be together.  You simply need to create obstacles between them, and the story is woven around these events. As for Russian influences, they are there due to the 19th-century Russian literature which has always inspired me: Dostoyevsky, Chekhov, etc. The melancholic feeling present in their works is very attractive, poetic, and beautiful.

Can the movie, thus, be regarded as a special tribute to the Russian literature?
- Yes, in a sense. But only when it applies to the atmosphere, the flavor, since I am not Russian and I have had no intention to analyze the so-called “mysterious Russian soul”. Russians become very upset when foreigners try to tell about themselves in one way or another; sometimes they just say “keep your hands off!”

I suppose you had similar feedback many times following Duska?
- Yes, often. They were offended by the jokes about Russian people. It is acceptable when Russians make jokes about themselves but strictly prohibited to foreigners. Several days before the Golden Apricot I introduced The Girl and Death in Russia. During the press-conference, a woman -- a reporter -- said that I had a Russian soul, that there must be some kind of connection between me and their nation. Before I could make a comment another reporter stood up from the audience and angrily claimed the opposite and demanded from me not to make any more movies about their country. She said that and left the room. It was a surreal situation, I did not say anything, I was just watching. Others were offended by the fact that I had used only one poem from Pushkin: “Why only that one? After all Pushkin had so many more works.” Luckily, there were also clever people who understood that the poem and the book appearing in the movie were a symbol for poetry, and there was no intention to showcase all the treasures Pushkin had. In any case, audiences, including the Russian one, accepted the movie rather well.

Was it easy to work with Sergei Makovetsky for the second time?
- Very easy. We are already good friends. He, like the other Russian actors, is very hard-working and dedicated to his job. In general, I like to work with an established team. I have been working with the same camera-man for already thirty years. Another actress from Duska who took a role in the new movie is Sylvia Hooks, a very talented young actress.

What can you say about Renata Litvinova? Wasn’t it difficult, taking into account that she is also a film director?
- On the contrary! Her experience as a film director was very helpful, she perfectly understood my problems. And, as an actress, she has such a unique style that for a moment I said to her, “Do as you like.” As a result, the character even changed a bit from the original screenplay.

One of the trademarks of your pictures is the obvious lack of speech. Why is it so?
- The reason is very simple: Dutch is a horrible language, terribly pragmatic and completely useless for poetic images. The reason behind that is that our nation has always been occupied with fishing and agriculture, and we have not spent much time talking to each other. Besides that, when you’re watching a movie without dialogues you have to be more concentrated and draw information from images.

Does the same logic apply to the new tape?
- Here, nevertheless, I have used some dialogues. I had to employ an interesting trick. I translated some very pragmatic phrases from Dutch to Russian and back from Russian to Dutch. It became an entirely new language. For example, “What are you doing here?” became “What winds brought you here?”

What is the next picture going to be about? Will there be more Russian influences?
- I have some five or six screenplays. The one I will start working on will be the one I will find financing for. One of them is again Russian, yes, about Moscow, but from the point of view of a westerner. The scenario is the following: a European man goes to Moscow to meet a Russian writer whose book he’s going to translate. The translator is not going to meet the writer because in Russia everybody is late for meetings. Of course, there is going to be a love storyline as well.

As you mentioned financing, do non-mainstream filmmakers, who create “smart” pictures, face any problems?
- Yes, they do more and more. Although this problem has been around for the last hundred years. On the other hand, in our age it becomes much easier to shoot movies as technologies develop and become easily accessible. The next problem is the audience: it is the audience that makes a movie meaningful, without the audience there are no movies. My movies, fortunately, are still watched.

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