Nature is not harmony
A countryside family is the essence of nature, its ruthlessness and pragmatism
This year in the programme Parallels and Encounters we saw a film from Montenegro that has nothing to do with Montenegrin as far as the contents are concerned. It is not a deficiency: THE ASCENT could have been made anywhere, at any time. And it was filmed on Durmitor, near Žabljak, in the natural environment that still has not been exploited for tourism. In the interview for the Festival Newsletter Nemanja Bećanović says that his visual role model was the American painter Andrew Wyatt and his impressive landscapes which influenced Terrence Malick, and that he was delighted when he discovered such locations.The countryside family in THE ASCENT lives in some kind of a civilization hole. One might expect that their relationships are more simple and pure. Why isn't that the case?
People and their relationships are basically neither simple nor pure at all. The civilization is here to cultivate our animal and irrational urges to some extent. I have always despised the mystification of the nature and the idea that we become nobler the closer we get to the nature. It is not noble, under its prosaic surface there is its dark being. The countryside family is the essence of nature, its ruthlessness and pragmatism. On the other hand, it was interesting for me to use subversion to observe the politically correct ideology of ecology and the meaningless empty phrase ''living in the harmony with the nature''.
These illiterate people are excited when they hear a story for the first time, when someone reads a book to them, in this case it was the ''Bible''. Were you looking for the absurd?
It is one of the key topics of the film. Lacking the written word, these people live in the real space which is devoid of imagination. The first encounter with the construed narratives seems fascinating and has such importance that clear lines between the real and the imaginary cannot be drawn. While we were growing up we all probably faced that. I think there is practically no difference between reading bedtime stories to children and reading the ''Bible'' to illiterate people. Of course, in the latter case, consequences can be much more dangerous.
When it comes to a film about countryside life in Montenegro, most of the viewers from the former Yugoslavia would expect the atmosphere and the ''humour'' from the films by Živko Nikolić, for example. How did you resist that influence?
I belong to the generation which has a pretty indifferent attitude towards the films by Nikolić. I find them overly strange, because I grew up in the world filled with different, global cultural codes. In that sense, my film does not correspond to Živko's films, but it communicates with Hitchcock, Mann, Dryer and Tarkovsky, whose films were telling more about my life and my fascinations than his. Still, my film is not less Montenegrin than his films which dealt with Montenegrin stereotypes and clichés.
How did you decide to make a film which is outside the usual contexts: commercial/ market-oriented, engaged in current politics?
On the one hand, it is senseless to make a commercial film in Montenegro because its market is too small, and, additionally, the financing of the film is on such low level that we cannot achieve the satisfactory standard of the genre film. On the other hand, it is better for the film authors to deal with universal topics which can be perceived in the same way by someone from the Balkans, Europe, or the USA, rather than with the nonsense related to current politics. It is pretty frustrating when you realize that European film funds and festivals are under the direct influence of politics, and how many bad politically correct films are made. I have no problem with the propagation of some ideas, but I do have it if I am asked to make an intervention in my film and turn it into simple propaganda, just in order to earn some money. All of this carries considerable weight because after all these years there are almost no films that have explored more deeply our sociopolitical reality. The socially engaged film, at the time when it became institutionalized in Europe, has been devalued quite a lot if compared to the 1960's and '70's when excellent provocative political films were made in Europe.