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BLACK NIGHTS 2020 Competition

Miroslav Mandić • Director of Sanremo

“I have lost the desire for certainty”

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- We talked to Miroslav Mandić, the director of Sanremo, which is celebrating its world premiere at Tallinn's Black Nights Film Festival

Miroslav Mandić • Director of Sanremo

In Sanremo [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Miroslav Mandić
film profile
]
, chosen for Tallinn Black Nights' main competition, Miroslav Mandić shows Bruno, who is trying his best to escape from his retirement home, even though his memory is failing him day after day. But another resident, Dusa, makes him realise that he is still able to feel – even though he might not remember it the next day.

Cineuropa: It’s worth pointing out how foggy it is in many scenes. Is it because Bruno's mind is also drifting away?
Miroslav Mandić:
You said it – I was looking for some kind of visual metaphor for his state of mind. It was a tough task to find such an equivalent in nature, as it also plays a huge part in his life and his current situation. The fog around him should suggest a fog inside of him. It's a small clue for the viewer.

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What made you interested in showing that state in life, which we probably all fear? It's interesting that he keeps repeating some “pearls of wisdom” or proverbs. It becomes his way of communicating.
I wanted him to repeat, almost mechanically, what he was being taught by the nurses, for example. “It's good to walk for 30 minutes every day; it's good to do this or that.” My uncle, who was in a similar home for the elderly, always respected the rules. I would take him out to the garden, and he was happy to be outside, but after ten minutes, he would say: “We have to go. They get angry if you are late for lunch.” The poor guy was clearly enjoying himself, and yet he had to go back. It was touching. When I used to visit him every once in a while, it became clear that you start to respect whatever you think needs to be respected. If others around you behaved like that, too, then maybe everyone's life would be better? That was the kind of wisdom I learned in that home. Maybe that was my first inspiration.

The performances in the film are very tender, but how did you intend to show these relationships?
When I was younger, I wouldn't go for anything unless I was completely sure about it. I wouldn't go after a woman if I wasn't sure I was into her; I wouldn't go after a film if I wasn't sure it was the most important one that could be made at the time. I have lost that desire for certainty. I am ready for an adventure, and I don't mind going after things based on some whim. Even the decision to cast my main actor [Sandi Pavlin] was quite intuitive. He is fairly well known in Slovenian theatre, and I didn't exactly take a risk, because he was so good, but I was happy to realise that he could do even more. This relationship remained intact – he called me only today. When the COVID-19 restrictions eased up, we used to meet every Sunday and go for a walk. Now, we talk on the phone. He reminds me of Bruno. I almost see them as one.

There are many films about people who lose who they are as they age. Was it your intention to keep it as natural as possible?
Normally, I don't tell my actors to be “natural”. I choose them because I feel they can be natural, and then I give them indications on how to respond or how to look at each other. I wouldn't want to order people around. I did some basic research, but I didn't want to go into too much medical detail, because there is something beyond science and I was interested in that. Some people call it love – I do, too – while some call it religion. So the question that the film poses is this: can the emotions between two people, as broken as they are, push them beyond their diagnosis?

They seem to be forgotten by the world. But so does this home.
It's on the sidelines of everyday life. I didn't want to focus on social criticism, showing nurses being cruel to them, for example. I have made social dramas in the past, and I do have this urge to point out certain issues. But this time, I didn't want to be so explicit. I don't think there is even one moment in the film when someone mentions dementia – I was careful not to be so direct. Some of these places look quite harsh, and there is a lot of exploitation, but that's something I couldn't even watch, not to mention recreate in a film.

This place is nice, a bit remote – they are cut off from civilisation. Bruno feels imprisoned in this home, but also by his longing for the past, which he has never fully accepted as gone. He used to have a wife, a dog and a home with a birch tree. He used to be in control. The whole dramaturgy of the film – if there is any, because it's quite fragmented – is about that. He needs something to cling onto.

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