New painting by Alexey German Jr. Delo is included in Cannes’s prestigious Unassigned Regard program. The films of this director have already participated in the Venice Film Festival five times and twice in the Berlinale. That is, he has already become one of those domestic directors who were among the contestants of all three of the world’s most iconic film festivals. On the eve of the director’s departure to Cannes, we talked about Alexei’s special view of Russian reality.
Of course, the story of a university teacher David Okhaladze, who entered into an unequal fight with a corrupt mayor and ended up under house arrest on false charges, will make many people think: does your hero have a real prototype?
Alexey German: The idea for the film came about six years ago. This story has nothing to do with anyone in particular. In my time, I traveled quite a lot across Russia and often ended up in cities that no one is involved in. Moreover, these are rather large cities, where 200, 300 thousand people live. I remember people came up to us and complained about various local troubles. Then I thought: how does the intelligentsia live there, which was brought up on good Soviet literature, on the heritage of Russian culture? How does she react to social injustice? As a result, there was a story of a provincial university teacher who is fighting for, as it seems to him, a better future.
You regularly attend meetings of the President of the country with cultural figures. One way or another, this speaks rather of your loyalty to the authorities. But why can’t the hero of your film, unlike his mythological namesake David, defeat Goliath, the “system”?
Alexey German: I do not formulate this as “loyal” or “disloyal” to the authorities. We simply wanted, on the one hand, without polishing reality, and on the other, without frightening or shocking anyone (in my opinion, the reports of the two central TV channels about corruption in the regions of Russia are much sharper) – to talk about the “crucifixion” of our country. Crucifixion – according to attitude. Talk about the impossibility of speaking in the language of ultimatums. As history shows, in the long term, this leads to a social explosion with a huge amount of blood. And we will not survive another revolution – the country will disintegrate. Society in any case should have the right to feedback from the state, to criticism of the bureaucracy. Otherwise, we risk repeating the fate of the Soviet Union, which collapsed due to the lack of feedback: state propaganda painted one picture of the world, the people saw a completely different one.
An example of total discommunication between the authorities and society is the same vaccination campaign. The authorities do not find arguments, ways to reach out to society. As a result, a significant part of society is incredibly suspicious and exists in a cloud of conspiracy theories. Not wishing to have a relationship with the state, does not support the vaccination campaign. This is the same indicator: there is a crack that divided our country. A split at the heart of a community is a bad symptom.
For the last three centuries, Russian culture has played a huge role also because it could not help but talk about injustice in our society. Because without this, the question arises: why, then, in principle, is Russian culture needed? Shouldn’t she also talk about the painful points of society? In this context, our film is her direct heir. Another thing is that culture, art should not be an instrument of anyone’s manipulation in achieving political goals. And Delo is not a manipulative, not provocative movie. It is an invitation to dialogue, not to search for enemies.
It seemed to me that “Delo” is an elegiac picture, despite the conflict situation inherent in it.
Alexey German: Yes, of course, we tried to get away from a certain posterity as much as possible. On the contrary, I wanted to make a pure poetic story about a person’s inner struggle in certain circumstances, about his losses, about injustice and the path to oneself.
But the melancholy that literally permeates the landscape outside the window of the hero’s house, on the one hand, raises history above everyday life, and on the other, speaks of the meaninglessness of all our fuss.
Alexey German: Of course, no matter what happens in our life, summer will come, then autumn, and so on – nature is indifferent to our sufferings and joys. Perhaps this is an elegiac atmosphere. But our film is also a poetic, very imaginative story, dissolved in the flow of time, how a test changes a person.
When you were filming “The Paper Soldier”, it was important for you that the heroes are doctors, like the quintessence of intelligence. In the new film, Merab Ninidze plays a specialist in the Silver Age. It is clear that this is not accidental.
Alexey German: It seems to me a very important topic of the collision of the ecosystem – our intelligentsia with the obvious reality that is developing in such small provincial towns. Our hero, brought up on Russian literature and Russian philosophy, is a man of the book. In his enthusiasm that he is fighting for a just cause, David does not think about the possible consequences. Something similar happened with Mandelstam, whose work is being studied by one of the hero’s students. Osip Emilievich also underestimated the danger of his frontendism.
With obvious sympathy for David Okhaladze, you do not dress him up in “white clothes”.
Alexey German: In this picture, there are practically no antiheroes, except for the mayor, whom we see on the TV screen for five seconds. This is the point – each has its own truth. Both the teacher fighting for justice, and his antagonist, the investigator, who is trying to persuade his suspect to admit guilt. We all have our own point of view, our own explanation.
I understand that Delo will actively dislike both democrats and patriots. Some people will not like that a person who fights with the mayor is not ideal. Others will see this story as a denigration of the regional authorities.
And David, of course, is not perfect. It’s complicated. Infantile moments. He is so self-centered that he did not notice his daughter’s problems. At the same time, he is a wonderful teacher who loves and cheers for his students, and they respond in kind. He dedicated his life to science. And it is quite obvious – a non-silver man. I met such people very often. They talk the same way. They have the same logic. They are just as suspicious of the authorities, and the authorities are also suspicious of them. But this is not only with us – remember Assange.
Why don’t you want to look at the situation from the other side, try to understand what happens to a person when he is tempted with power and money?
Alexey German: No, I do not want to study the causes of evil, scourge vices. I’m just trying to make sense of the world around us. I want to respect us for each other. I want to introduce us to us. Unfortunately, the history of Russia is often a history of the lack of translation of meanings between different communities.
It may seem to some that this is the simplest of your paintings, but I think that this is apparent simplicity.
Alexey German: This is because Delo also deals with root Russian questions. Can our people take responsibility for their own destiny? Where are the limits of promiscuity of officials? Or the question: where is the line between revolution and disintegration and improvement of society through an open normal dialogue? The film does not provide answers, but asks questions. And I don’t even know if we will ever be able to answer them and resolve them. After all, it is no coincidence that we have been talking about this for centuries – and have come nowhere. It is hard to imagine that someone in France is now asking the question: do they have a republic or not. And we still cannot identify ourselves in any way.
Maybe we have this ambivalence, this crucifixion between the past and the future, between the impossibility of taking responsibility for the structure of society, the suspicion of society towards the authorities, permissiveness on the ground? How to be?
Are we a society destined to drift between polar edges? Or, perhaps, we are a society that, given our mentality, can change extremely slowly, stretching this process over many years?
Only one thing is clear: there are no simple recipes for us. And no one except ourselves will overcome the split that is within us and between us.
Source: Российская Газета by rg.ru.
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