Ognjen Glavonić • Director
“Paths are made by walking”
by Vladan Petkovic
- CANNES 2018: Serbian filmmaker Ognjen Glavonić tells us about how his first fiction feature, the Directors’ Fortnight title The Load, came into being
Serbian filmmaker Ognjen Glavonić is competing in the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight with his first fiction feature, The Load [+see also:
interview: Ognjen Glavonić
film profile], which tackles a crime from the Kosovo War that he first visited in his documentary Depth Two [+see also:
film profile], but in a very different way. Glavonić tells Cineuropa about how the two films came into being and influenced each other.
Cineuropa: Why did you decide to tell this particular story, and in two films? Why is it so important to you?
Ognjen Glavonić: The subject matter that I'm dealing with is still conspicuously absent from the public discourse. I wasn't curious just about the theme of the crime and the silence surrounding it; I was interested in the possibility of telling the story in what I think is an exciting way.
Depth Two came out of research I did for The Load, and it was made when I realised that it was impossible to force the huge amount of material I had found into a fiction film, because that's not where it belongs. Eventually, Depth Two changed The Load from what I had originally imagined. I modified the script and shifted the focus to other things, changing the context to avoid any repetition. I wanted this film to be a personal reflection, an amalgam of my memories and research, which often collided with each other.
I wanted to emphasise the significance of a conversation about responsibility, instead of looking for alibis and pointing fingers at the "Other". I think it's necessary for cinema to speak to, as Pasolini put it, young fascists, those who are on the way to becoming ones – to educate them, teach them, jolt them out of their delusions and crack the national mythomania. A film should be a mirror of society, whatever the reflection we get.
This film is as much about the city, government and society that I am now living in as it is about the one I grew up in. But it is also about Yugoslavia and its remains, about the lessons that we can learn from it and its dissolution, and about my growing up and experiences during the NATO bombing. Above all, this is a film about what kind of inheritance a generation leaves to the next one. It's about stories that people did not want, or were not brave enough, to tell. This is the first step through the jungle of noise and lies, and as Kafka says, paths are made by walking.
How did you arrive at this form for the film, with very little actual war in it and a focus on one character?
I never thought about The Load as a war film, and nor did I want to make an action film. For me, it was an intimate, personal drama, where we feel the consequences of the war more in the face of the main character, rather than around him. It was also always supposed to be a story about him discovering not only what’s in the back of his truck but, through that, some truths about himself as a human being.
I wanted people to get this feeling of a war being fought in the background and an overwhelming danger looming somewhere nearby. I didn’t want hundreds of different shots and camera angles; it was more important to spend time with the character and the sound of the truck, to see what he sees and to feel what he feels. Through his senses, I wanted to show how my country looked at that time, without explaining the context too much or distributing information, messages and theses. I wanted to show the metaphysical, inner journey of my character, but also a society at a very specific moment of its decay.
How did you pick Leon Lučev for the main role?
I chose Leon after I saw him portray very different characters in several good films. We started working on the movie three years before we started shooting, and the experience he brought not only to his own character and the film itself, but also to the actual shoot, gave me, a distracted young director, a sense of security. Thanks to him, I started to believe that perhaps everything would turn out fine in the end.
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