14 Mar 2018 - 10:04
Discover your inner voice: Russian director
DOHA: Russian director and writer, Andrey Zvyagintsev (pictured), took young filmmakers on an inspiring journey in a two-hour Qumra masterclass that chronicled his entry into films and his transformation as one of the world’s modern masters with an inimitable style and approach to cinema.
Zvyagintsev shared a crystal-clear vision that every emerging filmmaker should have: “Be yourself,” he said. “Discover your inner voice and build on it.”
He recalled the days when he first ventured into filmmaking – coming at it as a transformational period, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. “There were no boundaries or structures; it was very disorienting as well as encouraging. As a newcomer you could do anything,” said Zvyagintsev, whose background in the arts was in theatre and acting.
He took the opportunity to direct segments for television before he met Dmitry Lesnevsky, who decided to produce what would be Zvyagintsev’s film debut – The Return which was screened at Qumra as part of the Modern Masters programme. The film about two Russian boys and their friction with their father who returns after 12 years won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, and has been described as one of the greatest films of the 21st century.
While watching a show-reel of the film at the Qumra masterclass, Zvyagintsev said he cannot watch it, as “I think how I could have made it differently” but went on to take the audience through the journey of its making. He said elaborate preparation went into its making for over a year, right from the selection of the actors to location-scouting and the many rehearsals that went in before filming it.
Zvyagintsev said: “I would say that the actors cast me and not the other way around.” His background in acting also helped him in finding actors “and vice versa”, he adds. The Return, he told the filmmakers in the audience, is also about letting the actors discover their inner voice. “I am a true believer in the adage that silence is louder than words. I encourage my actors to find that connection.”
He said that even in his subsequent works, including Elena (which won the Special Jury Prize at Cannes), Leviathan (which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film) and Loveless (winner of the Jury Prize at Cannes), he has gone by his personal belief in “giving full freedom to the actors and not binding them by a script.”
The bottomline, for Zvyagintsev, is preparation. “I believe that a film is best conceived at the preparatory stage, when everything is well-planned so you just have to go out and shoot.”