List Film

Kristana - interview

Digital existential

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Austere Latvian filmmaker Fred Kelemen lays down his philosophy of filmmaking.

‘The starting point for Krisana was the atmosphere of the city of Riga. I’d spent time there in the past when I was teaching at the Latvian film academy. For me it was a place full of cinematographic images and very attractive, even if it was quite gloomy and violent in parts. Compared to Western cities, I felt like I was going back in time, and so I wanted to make a film there.

'I also wanted to explore existential questions of guilt, and specifically the idea, not of doing something bad, but of not doing the right thing. With all my scripts I play the game of, “What would happen if?” Here I came up with the image of a man not helping a woman who is about to throw herself off a bridge, and the rest of the story developed from that situation.

‘For some people it’s a dream to make a film in Hollywood. My dream was to make a black and white film quickly with friends that was authentic, and that wouldn’t involve waiting around for years for financing. We shot it on digital video in a couple of weeks, borrowing equipment and using actors from the Latvian theatre scene, because there is no film industry there.

'What interests me about the main character Matiss is how a mixture of guilt and curiosity makes him collect fragments of the woman’s life to create a whole picture, which turns out to be illusionary. That’s what the audience does in watching a film: it pieces together bits of information to come up with a version of the world.

'We’ve tried to release Krisana in Latvia, although it’s very difficult because the cinemas there are dominated by Hollywood films. There’s an incredible fight going on from the mainstream to destroy the possibilities of what cinema can be, and I think we have to try and resist this. Film isn’t just an economic product, it needs to be seen as an art form, like music or theatre or opera, and to be subsidised more by the state. Nobody says we should stop printing the novels of Dostoevsky because they’re not massively popular anymore.’

Krisana is showing at GFT, Glasgow on Wed 15 and Thu 16 Nov only. Filmhouse, Edinburgh from Mon 27-Thu 30 Nov only.

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