A word with Janez Burger, director of Silent Sonata

Silent Sonata was selected as the Slovenian entry for the 2012 Oscar for Best Foreign Film and has toured the world through various festivals after its release in 2010 (International Film Festival Rotterdam 2011, Haifa International Film Festival 2011, Tokyo International Film Festival 2011, MedFilm Festival Rome 2011 and many more). From 30 September, the film will be available on VoD in Denmark, Norway, France and Czech Republic as part of Walk This Way’s Premium Films collection.

At the 2011 International Film Festival Rotterdam, Cineuropa took the opportunity to talk to the film’s Slovenian director, Janez Burger (Idle Running, Ruins and his latest film Avtošola), about his third feature and to tap his thoughts on...

The Theme of War
War is around all the time, you know. Because everything is global, war is everywhere all the time. If you switch on the television, you have war in your home. That was what I wanted to make: a film that was not about some particular war, but that was abstract, for the whole world is in war, in fact. On the other hand, when you switch on the television and you have these war speeches, such as everything that happened when NATO and the Americans prepared the Afghanistan War and the Iraq War, you have a lot of words- a lot of lies. You have a lot of war propaganda. So I said, “If I were to make a war film, it would be completely without any words, because the words in war are lies, so I don’t need them.”

An International Cast
Production-wise, it was more difficult. In Slovenia, we don’t have circus artists, so we had big castings in Berlin and in Paris to invite all sorts of circus artists and pick a few of them for the film.

A Circus Movie
No, I think it’s more of a film about how life has different points of view, or it has different dimensions. In this film, even dead people aren’t dead- they’re alive, but in a different dimension. It’s a film about this. I don’t think it’s so much about circus or about show business, but on the other hand we have this “war is kind-of show business” and circus is kind-of show business, and they sort of crash together in the film.

The Title
In Slovenia it is Circus Fantasticus because it’s the only film with “circus” in the title, but if you are on the international market, this year there are a lot of “something-Circus-something” movies- a lot of films with something “circus” in the title, so the sales agents at Fortissimo Films said it’s impossible to sell the film because there are too many of them, and they changed the title. When I was watching the film yesterday I thought this is a better title, in fact. I would like to go to Silent Sonata not Circus Fantasticus if it wasn’t my film.

The Visual Concept
I just wanted to have this horizontal. Horizontal. Because of that, it’s Cinemascope widescreen. It’s more-or-less because of the last shot. The whole time you’re on the horizontal, you see the horizontal and then you have this shot from [above]. It was meant to have this. That was the concept. 

Writing a Script for an Almost Dialogue-free Film
It’s not a problem of writing. It’s a problem of reading, I’d think. Because the people who read this script had problems: “How will I make a film with 20 pages?” “A long film on 20 pages? Impossible!” But I knew that it’s completely possible because I knew that it’s a long film. It’s not a short film. I don’t know how to make more pages, because it was written like “Old man can’t take his bread. Six minutes.” That’s one line. You can’t write 10 pages about this. I wrote the script in 10 days.

Production
It was good that I could have a bigger budget than I’d have if only Slovenian money was involved in making the movie. That was a good advantage of the co-production. Another good thing about this co-production was that I could take really good professionals, which I really need. You know, a sound man, all those really great puppets we made, etc. And I could shoot in Ireland, because we don’t have such a sea, such a coast, in Slovenia. It was really good. It was really good. I’m really glad we had a co-production because the money question and the shooting question (were taken care of) because we shot in Slovenia and in Ireland. Also, we had some people from Finland, so (that helped with) the money question because they were from Finland. And post-production in Sweden- money 

 

Watch the whole interview (in English):

12 October 2015, by Cineuropa

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