“For the courage and the clarity with which the young director describes, through a precise assembly and an excellent direction, a city from where the Gods have fled”.
This is the motivation that, for the judges of the 21th edition of the Trieste Film Festival, granted the victory in the feature film category to Đavolja Varoš (The city of the devil) by Vladimir Paskaljevic, at his cinematoraphic debut. The prize have been, for sure, reason of pride for the father of the young director, the well-known Goran, guest himself in Trieste — for the first time with his son during a festival — to inaugurate the opening of the event with his Honeymoon, and to have a masterclass with students of cinema coming from all across the Europe.The city of the Devil is a black comedy which entwine the destiny of several lost souls, with a contemporary Belgrado as background, where redemption can’t be found. And which, as the director tells us, nothing have to share with the serbian citadel, which share the same name, proclaimed heritage of the humanity by the Unesco, city that many young directors in search of funds proposed as setting for the works, so they could get the funds from the ministry, funds reserved for tourist promotion.
The entwined events develops through a single day, marked by an important tennis tournament which, in a way or another, seems to affect the life of all the characters. Two triflers careless of a baby, a violent taxist, two young girls who loves tennis but don’t have the same possibilities to achieve their dreams, because one is rich and the other poor, a neo divorced who rediscover her passion for her husband after a disappointing love born over the web, a gynecologist in pension, a group of prostitutes, a guy that can’t accept the end of his love. This and many others are the protagonists that features in this coral pricture of saturated colors, darkened only by the black shadow of a cinism that doesnt leave much hope. The only consolation, in fact, seems to be rather aestetic, with an ending of Carrolls “wonder”.
Cristina Favento (CF): I saw your movie just now and I had quite a bad feeling, I have to say. This morning I was listening at the press conference different opinions about a hope shown in this work, about features more positive respect to the script you wrote for Optimisti. That wasn’t really my impression: I felt a sense of perdition, I found a society quite lost, in a bad situation, they’ve lost their values. This was my impression, I would like a comment from you about.
Vladimir Paskaljevic (VP): I think that the film is a reflection, my personal reflection about Serbian society as I think it is. I’m quite lost in this moment because the country started a transition and this transition is going in the direction of a society where only money is appreciated and it’s the only value. There’s a big loss of all the other moral values. So it is my picture of Serbia, and doesn’t have to be necessarily objective but this is how I feel it. The main story is about a poor and a rich girl and the poor one he can’t do anything, while the rich girl can do whatever. It’s the core story of the film.
CF: What about the white rabbits? Maybe the only positive sign…
VP: The worked involved with the white rabbits is the one who has lost his job and he saves this animals. He hit himself because does something that his against the system, which can be kind of a relief but it is also a sort of dead end. I personally see it as a black comedy full of humor, it just held the thing how they are with humor, from my point of view. We were all having fun while shooting it.
CF: I believe so…
VP: Well it was nice. It’s a good way to say something that people usually won’t accept.
CF: It was all following the script or during the shooting it was a bit creative also?
VP: Well, it’s not that much different from the script. I mean, there were some adjustments, but we would just make the scene, see if it works and then made some adjustments here and there, if necessary. We tried to make it more truthful because if we left it completely like it was written always, all the time it couldn’t be true. I think that every director make this kind of small corrections.
CF: We said that this is not your first script, so I’m curious about the reason why you decided to start from this stories and how do you usually create your plots.
VP: Well, in this movie the only created story was the one between the poor and rich girls, which is a quite archetype relationship. The other stories, 80% of the film, were just taken from the truth and adjusted here and there. I worked on the links between characters, actually the reality inspired me in order to make this film. Actually, I had to make this film, somehow, and maybe that’s why it’s the only screenplay that succeeded to find money and funds. It wasn’t a big budget, just a really small one, compared to other European productions, even compared to others in Serbia.
CF: When you say that you needed it, you mean by the story point of view or for you to test yourself in directing?
VP: I didn’t think that much about directing: the film had to be made, the story had to be told. It was the only point for me for making this film.
CF: What is the most important for you in a story? What’s the things that worth the story to be told?
VP: I think that the most important thing in a story is that it has to be true. It doesn’t have to be real, but true in terms of possibility and probability that it could happen. In terms of necessity of writer to write it down, to write about his experience of that story. It means there’s writers that usually writes 1, 2 or 5 pages a day, and others that have an urge to write in order to write, because they like the process of writing. I find the process of writing interesting only when I need to tell something, when I need to express some of my feelings and I think it’s the only point, unless they pay me (He laugh, nda). But they don’t, so don’t worry!
CF: In the movie there’s a director that is explaining how he is going to realize a story speaking about this place which is became famous because of Unesco. But what impressed me was overall the words he said after this declaration: “When I will be rich, when I’ll be famous after the Oscar, then I will tell my real story, which is about the Balkans situation, the war”. What about this? It’s your aim too?
VP: Actually that’s mocking of certain situations… Mocking about how some directors and some actors try to use art for their political goals. Which is okay, you know, but in that case somebody tried to prove something with his film and with interviews of Serbian politicians belonging to only one Serbian side. So that’s mocking of using only one side and listening to only one side. Actually the entire character of the film director in my movie is, you know, let’s say a mocking of character. I think many of this this people exist, even not only in Serbia but all around the world, who try to make films that are politically correct or politically incorrect, or politically somehow and they fit the moment and they write on it and those films say nothing new but they just needed to be seen, and listened, and they win prizes. I know a lot of them and I think that this is often happening, especially with Balkan films. I just wanted to be critic about it.
CF: It was interesting the fact that in this festival was present your father also. He said that it’s the first time that you two are in the same moment in a festival together.
VP: I think that we will also be together in the Rotterdam film festival with our films. He will be in the section that concerns senior directors that are well known while I’ll be in the one for the first jobs. So this is the first and Rotterdam will be next where we gonna be presented together, but he will not be in Rotterdam, so this is actually the only place where we met as directors.
CF: So, what’s your feeling about, what are your impressions and how is the relationship with him?
VP: Well, I have at the same time advantage and disadvantage by having him as a father. Disadvantages are that they always comparing you in the way to do this job, at they just bring conclusions. Then it’s not very easy to find the money when your father is famous and everybody thinks “Ah, his father will give him the money” so I never got funding in my life. Any kind of funding except when we entered Karlovy Vary and we asked the minister of culture to get funds for the transfer, but that’s the only funding I ever got in my life. The good side is that I was always there when he was working on something, so I could have a master class not in duration of 2 hours but in duration of 20 years, so that’s the good point about it. And I also worked in his films with that exclusivity, you know, I was assistant editor but also stayed private with the director, discussing about the film, and he always asked me what I thought. I worked on one screenplay with him, which was a great experience, I wouldn’t for sure make this film in such a way if I didn’t write his previous film, the Optimist. So these are good sides of being son of somebody that does the same job.
CF: So, by the technical point of view he’s your teacher, the person that gave you the background.
VP: I used his experience in a certain ways, because he has bigger experience, he has done something like 14-15 films. And he’s done a lot of various films, different kinds, and he had quite draw the experience. I remember him when he did the film for MGM, I remember him when he did his works in Serbia, when he did co-production with Italian, French, Irish, British. He was involved into various kinds of production, and I was always there somewhere, listening from the closeup. So that’s good experience actually, ’cause I, somehow, adopted his experience, and if I hadn’t worked with him, I wouldn’t be able to make this movie in three and a half weeks with such small means. I’m not sure that I would make it. We also did some pick up so let’s say four weeks.
CF: So you feel like you are using this experience you had to build up your own profession, or you feel different?
VP: Exactly. I’m actually using his experience but it is also mine one, because I was there.
CF: What about your models? I can figure he’s the most important one, but what about the others?Any different reference points?
VP: It was not my father that triggered my interest for the films, I must admit. I was into photography and literature a lot, and somehow the film was the lucky joint of the two, but still not maybe enough, and I still didn’t have the idea that films can be art, or something that I feel close. Then I saw some older films by Fassbinder, by Bunuel then I figured that there is something about the films, then I started to be interested in movie making, in general. When I started to be interested in film-making, I started to work to my father’s work, first as a still-photographer and then later I was assistant director, second assistant director etc…
CF: So you start from the aesthetic point of view, then you are interested in the text, then something more complex is coming out…
CF: What about your next project? Or projects?
VP: My next project is still in the air, and it’s still not finished because I don’t have a screenplay finished yet, it’s almost there, the idea is there. There’s a very interesting play in Serbia, it was staged about three years ago without a big success, but the text was interesting. It was changed a lot so it lost on stage his original values, but it’s about a poor family that always plays lottery and those games on TV, they are trying to get, and once they are lucky, they got dinner with a big TV celebrity, he will come to their home, have dinner and give them a prize, a surprise present that is the prize they won. They start to prepare themselves for the dinner, and they think it’s gonna be their salvation, their contact with the world of the rich and famous people. It could be ironical and a good comedy and so far I have the story, but I still don’t have details, developed characters, dialogues. When I finish with Trieste and Rotterdam I will go back home and have more time to work on it.