Every interview started with the question “what do you feel now having the Golden Lion?” By the first one I gave a start “did we get it already then?”
“No”, said the journalist, “but if you will, then we’ll put it together, if not, then we’ll cut it out. We wouldn’t be able to do another interview, right?”.
So I had to sing a song about how happy we are, without knowing who’s gonna win the prize.
After fifth interview I couldn’t keep repeating the same text all the time. I began to falter, to become angry, to accuse the journalists of illiteracy and Venice of the heat. I was tired. During the lunch time I ran back to my room and took my recorder, feeling that I might not remember anything I’ll tell then.
Here are some excerpts of the afternoon conversations.
“What was the most difficult during your filming”
“The most difficult was to stare at the director’s back for 47 days. Sokurov not only used a huge mirror against the camera for the actual filming but to see the picture in the same way he was carrying a car mirror on his shoulder. Thus discussing the role I remained behind him and was talking to Sokurov’s shoulder. I got used to it so much that I didn’t recognized our director as we met in Venice.”
“Anton, could you tell us if there’s some material in the “Faust” that didn’t make it to the final cut?”
“Oh, yes! Right in the beginning of the film Faust actually dies. Don’t you wonder how keen director’s idea was. In the hospital a bed with a cadaver, which Faust was just examining and looking for a human soul, falls on him. Wagner, his disciple tries to free Faust and pulls some substance with little similarity to Faust, fat and messy. Though this is Faust melted together with the Death. This is my character, Mephistopheles. Faust keeps living inside me. Well, by the final cut the entire shot, about 15 minutes, has been left out. “It’s obvious”, Sokurov said, “why would we need to explain it?”. So Faust didn’t die but I remain there with a huge fat stomach.”
“Anton, could you tell us what was the most dangerous moment during filming?”
“The most dangerous thing was to walk backwards. Particularly on the Iceland’s lava. For the entire film was shot backwards, actors had to do everything in the reverse order. This is why the big part of material, the underwater fight for Margaret, has been left out. We were unable to swim backwards. And Sokurov didn’t want to make any compromises.”
I don’t remember who:
“The most unusual thing was that Valley in Iceland where we saw hundreds of faceprints on the ground around the geyser, just like somebody would press his face firmly against it. There were big holes in place of mouths. Well, it turned out to be the Famous Sniffing Valley. Each Sunday hundreds of people lie down with their faces on the ground and inhale the healing sulphur moisture. Our film crew tried it too but without habit to do it our director of photography has started to hallucinate and suggested to dye the Geyser red. “Go to Tarantino with this”, said Sokurov.”
RAI uno, Italy:
“The Frisean horses that we ride on the way to Underworld are rare and expensive. They also known for their ability to pronounce words with lots of G’s and R’s. One of them (mine) could distinctly say “Great Rumble” and “Rare Gift”, thanks to the Czech groom, a big fan of Pushkin.”
“Anton, could you tell us what funny moments from filming you still remember?”
“There was many funny things. In a break I went to the adjacent woods for a walk and rest. I came across a clearance full of wild mushrooms. Pure porcini! I had no basket or anything and started to fill my pockets, thanks to the oversized costume. Full of mushrooms I realised that I went astray. And I was scared by the thought that I may derange the filming. I started to shout in russian and italian for help. Czech family of mushroom-pickers has come around and ran off immediately – I totally forgot about my make-up. In fifteen minutes there were three policemen. I tried to explain in Czech about the filming and made a confident gesture to some fictional direction. There we went. After twenty minutes we turned on my command and lost our way entirely. One of them pulled his pistol, another one called for a helicopter. It came much later and there was no place for landing. In the twilight it showed us a way. When finally we came to the filming location, full of burdock, angry, the policemen couldn’t really accuse me of anything. Sokurov in turn couldn’t find a better question to ask me: “where did you find them?”
“In the forest”, I replied thinking of the mushrooms, “there’s lots of them.”
And on September the 10th we perfectly played the piece “Limousine, Red Carpet, Golden Lion, Photo, Limousine, Much Wishky, Night. Venice. Morning. Way Back Home”.
The excitement of these days has gone quite fast. What remains is “Faust” and an untypically long (for a festival) standing ovation for the director Alexander Sokurov.
Text: Anton Adasinsky
English text editor: Daniel Williams
Video: Elena Yarovaya