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CANNES 2022 Un Certain Regard

Maksym Nakonechnyi • Director of Butterfly Vision

“We realised that the butterfly would be our entry point into the metaphysical and the subconscious”

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- CANNES 2022: The Ukrainian director gives us the low-down on his harsh and timely testimony to the women fighting for their integrity, their freedom and their future in his home country

Maksym Nakonechnyi • Director of Butterfly Vision

Maksym Nakonechnyi’s feature debut, Butterfly Vision [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Maksym Nakonechnyi
film profile
]
, which has screened in Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival, is a harsh and all-too-timely testimony to the defenders of Ukraine and the women fighting for their integrity, their freedom and their future.

Cineuropa: How did the idea for this film come about?
Maksym Nakonechnyi:
From the very beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian war, we, as a Ukrainian film and art community, have tried to be involved in this and tried to do what we could, as filmmakers and as artists – that is, we filmed a lot. In particular, our production company, Tabor, has made a lot of documentaries about the war, and I was also involved in other projects that talked about the war in one way or another. In 2017, I edited an omnibus documentary film about women in the war, which was called Invisible Battalion. This project helped me understand and get a better feel for the female viewpoint, the female approach and the state of being a woman at war. A hypothetical woman with some kind of traumatic past, but who is able to survive this trauma and overcome it – I felt this person was a certain moral guide for myself and, in general, for the post-war society in Ukraine. This story came to me by itself, just in the process of editing, but it was only after that that I understood why it had come to me in the first place.

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Iryna Tsilyk was one of the directors of that omnibus documentary, and I asked her if she would mind writing this story with me because, first of all, she was the director of this film, who inspired me to write this story, and secondly, she is a wonderful cinematographer and writer in general. Thirdly, she, as a mother and as a family member of a veteran, had also had certain experiences that the script needed to incorporate in order for it to be realistic and true. In other words, her contribution to history and to the film is invaluable; I am very grateful to her for it.

How was the experience of working on the script with Iryna?
We wrote the first draft of the screenplay once we had already begun to develop the film, with my co-writers and with the main actress. We had already begun to communicate with many people – mainly those whom we knew from before, and our friends. But we got to know other people who had taken part in, witnessed or were victims of the war, or of certain war crimes or related violence. We tried to be open to their experiences and their stories, and include them in the process of creating the film, in one form or another – in the script, in the role development, in the acting methods, in the manner of shooting, in the scenery or even in the sound design.

Can we talk about artistic expression in the film? The symbol of the butterfly, and the pixelation when the life of the heroine falls apart – how did these artistic means of expression come about?
Each of them came about in its own way. Some were already established at the scriptwriting stage – when Iryna and I were thinking about who our heroine should be, we very quickly came to realise that she should be an aerial reconnaissance woman, because this really opened the door for many means of expression. We came up with her call sign, “Butterfly”, and we realised that the butterfly would be our entry point into the realm of the metaphysical and the subconscious because it is a symbol of the soul. It also gave us the opportunity to use the image of flight, and to utilise this point of view from above, the point of view of a helicopter or butterfly.

When we were already at the post-production stage, we were thinking about how to combine all of these different elements – the subconscious, reality, the reality as portrayed in the media, flashbacks about Lilia's military or traumatic past, and so on – and we came up with this principle of a glitch, or pixelation. We thought it would be pretty organic and expressive, and visually quite similar to the kind of image that we use in the film, but on the other hand, it’s very figurative and metaphorical in terms of what happens to the heroine and what happens to her personality. It didn’t come to us immediately: at first, we tried rough cuts and jump cuts, and attempted to combine them in different ways, but later, we came up with this glitch idea as a visual and editing solution in the film.

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