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VENICE 2019 International Film Critics’ Week

Mantas Kvedaravičius • Director of Parthenon

“The ‘characters’ of the film turned into collaborators, as did their stories”

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- VENICE 2019: We spoke to Lithuanian director Mantas Kvedaravičius, whose Parthenon is being screened in the Venice International Film Critics’ Week this year

Mantas Kvedaravičius  • Director of Parthenon
(© International Film Critics' Week)

We got the chance to talk to Lithuanian director and lecturer Mantas Kvedaravičius, whose third feature, entitled Parthenon [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Mantas Kvedaravičius
film profile
]
, is being presented during this year’s Venice International Film Critics’ Week.

Cineuropa: The film is based on ethnographic research that lasted three years. How did you embark on it? Was it intended to be used to make a film from its early stages?
Mantas Kvedaravičius: It seems to me that the film originated from two main directions. At first, it came about from certain images or encounters: the harrowing cry of someone outside the window, a huge bird landing on the ice, somebody sewing up his lips while other people are singing… Secondly, it originated from bits and pieces of the stories that I’ve heard from the people I met, who became my friends, collaborators and enemies. These elements had already emerged during the research, which one could call “ethnographic”. They might not be directly connected to the film, but are present somehow, just outside the margins of the script and of the filming process: a boy who is made to eat a football by his teacher for breaking the rules, a girl who steals a diamond just to feed it to a fish and so on… Starting from these two “impulses”, the film was being pushed towards a certain form; it then became populated by tangible spaces and “characters”, and developed its aesthetic stance.

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Why did you choose to focus your attention on body and memory?
I think that they chose to be included in the film. By that I mean that both memory and body are not the primary objects of the movie’s attention; however, through the characters and spaces of the film, they seem to come to the forefront through the shared impulse of historicity that they harbour. The way in which film characters treat their bodies on screen or the way in which certain places are steeped in history is less of a decision on the directorial side, and more a decision regarding the subject matter itself.

What were the most critical phases of the whole creative process? Why?
The creation of a project like this had to follow cinematic logic, while attempting to capture moments and to bring to life particular experiences that are not defined by a script or a production plan. Rather, in order to make certain images work by juxtaposition, a number of settings, cities and situations were needed. Just as importantly, the “characters” of the film turned into collaborators, as did their stories. They brought a significant balance to the way they’ve chosen to act within the film’s spaces.

The cinematography is almost claustrophobic, and many scenes were shot in dark settings. Could you tell us more about this aesthetic choice?
One of the ideas was to create a specific space which would not necessary be bound to the physical dimension, but – as I mentioned previously – to the space of memory and body. This prompted my attempts to visualise and find the right cinematic form for it. In this respect, the close-ups with this specific light setting helped me move in that direction.

What about your next projects?
I have a few long-term cinematic projects in the works: one of them is a sci-fi film set in Goma and a visual exploration of a bubonic plague epidemic.

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