There have been very few movies about Serbian history
Your latest film ‘Why Are My Thoughts So Conflicted” (in Serbian, “Što se Bore Misli Moje“) deals with Serbian history and Prince Mihailo Obrenović. How challenging was it for a film director to film about historical subjects? How difficult is it to incorporate the documentary aspect into a feature film?
It’s a big responsibility. We did not incorporate the documentary aspect into the feature film but rather adapted the fiction to the truth. We respected the facts. The problem is that there are very few indisputable facts about the assassination of the prince to make a movie out of them. “Why Are My Thoughts So Conflicted” is partly fiction and the most challenging thing was to place all the fictional characters and events in a realistic framework. That is, everything that is invented in the film had to resemble the truth and that was the challenge. Also, we presented certain truths to the viewers that cannot be found on the Internet. There is also a very limited number of books which taught us something that was not commonly known, so a lot of research was needed before writing the script.
It seems that films inspired by history have become popular again in domestic movie theatres. Why is that so?
If you look back, the Serbian film industry is brimming with films inspired by history. I would not go into ideological discussions and quality assessment, but World War II films have become an almost independent genre. However, there have been very few films that cover Serbian history. More films about this topic have been made in the last ten years than in the entire time since we started making movies in this country. Until recently, we didn’t seem to show much interest in our own history. For instance, the film inspired the song Banović Strahinja, which in itself is a more or less finished script, was directed by a Croatian film director. Viewers have always loved such films, but they have not been made for a long time. I’m afraid the reason for this is very prosaic – making historical films is very demanding.
It takes a lot more time to even get to filming if you take into account everything that needs to be researched in order for the script to both respect the facts and be believable, but also fun for the audience. We didn’t dare to start shooting the film until two renowned historians, who specialize in the historical period depicted in “Why Are My Thoughts So Conflicted”, read the script. The filming itself was a challenge because we had to strictly adhere to the historical timelines. For instance, you can’t shoot an assassination in the winter if the prince was killed in May. Plus, you have to find very rare props and the list goes on and on. The financial aspect is not negligible either. “Why are My Thoughts so Conflicted” does not belong to the category of “historical spectacle” in terms of production, if historical spectacle implies cavalry going from charge to charge, with thousands of extras and so on, but then again, creating costumes and finding props from the 19th century and appropriate carriages are much more demanding than shooting a film that takes place in the present time and in which you have no responsibility towards history.
Now every family member has a camera, like a plate
You are not only a film director, but also a screenwriter, writer, musician and actor. You are also known as a football commentator and a seeker in the popular quiz “The Chase” (“Potera”). How do you explain having such a complex range of interests?
I explain that as a complex spectrum of interests. Because I have loved football since I was a child, it is not that difficult to comment on a game once a week. I just articulate out loud what I think when I watch a game on the TV in the living room. It’s the same with music. As for “The Chase”, curiosity and a good memory are crucial. You just realize that you have accumulated enough information to be able to do the role of a seeker.
From the artist’s perspective, what do you think of the local art scene? Is there an audience for high-end cultural events or is popular culture dominant?
I don’t know if the two should be viewed separately – why can’t popular culture be the ultimate cultural event? Of course, if by popular culture you mean a concert by, say, the Rolling Stones. What’s not top-notch in that? I suppose that every cultural event has its audience. In fact, it seems to me that we have enough events here from all segments of culture – there are concerts and literary evenings, films and series, theatres with a large number of plays in their repertoires and everything has its bigger or smaller audience. Now, not everything is always top quality, but it never has been. There has always been a distinction. How many composers during Mozart’s time made more money than him but nobody has ever heard of them? The problem doesn’t lie in a genre of culture but what matters the most is the quality that will make the work of art last.
What is happening to contemporary pop culture? Has it been devalued with the advent of social networks?
The Internet offers a lot of content that has generated great popularity, without content creators really making an effort. A girl talks about the best lipstick or a guy plays a video game and records it, and this gets more views than any music track, whether classical or rock. Each has its own value. It is important that people are more interested in something that is not culture in general. What benefit do you get from watching someone play a video game? After all, pick it up and play it yourself, it’s more fun. Social media are not a problem in themselves as they can be useful, but the problem is out-of-control use and the fact that you can generate a large number of viewers, that is, “followers”, without investing much effort. You don’t need knowledge or skills and you don’t have to be special in any way to influence someone’s opinion. You just turn on the camera (and now every family member has one, like a plate) and say whatever first comes to your mind and that’s rarely something worth hearing, save for rare exceptions. So my answer is “yes” – popular culture has been devalued, but just like other cultural genres, it is still holding on and I hope they will manage to survive the invasion of social media content.
What has pushed society forward throughout history has always been something rare and exceptional
In the past, before the advent of today’s digital age, culture led society forward and was its signpost. However, today it seems that, in general, culture is only a reflection of the society in which it is created. What do you think?
It would be a bit pretentious to say that we, people in culture and authors, lead society forward.
We are here to notice, point out or suggest something and it is up to people to decide how they will understand and use what we said. So, if we are a product of a society, that is also what we put in front of the audience. In fact, what has pushed society forward throughout history, no matter where it came from, has always been something rare and exceptional. As for the signposts, they can be set up by anyone, but is up to us to recognize if the direction they are pointing to is the right one.
Why are My Thoughts so Conflicted
The exciting historical and political thriller “Why are My Thoughts so Conflicted” is centred around the murder of Prince Mihailo Obrenović, as well as the events that immediately preceded the tragic act itself. Milorad Milinković and Dragoljub Stojković wrote the script about one of our greatest rulers and the assassination that took place in 1868 in Košutnjak.
Dragan Mićanović plays Prince Mihailo Obrenović, while other historical figures are played by prominent actors such as Miloš Timotijević, Nebojša Dugalić, Nataša Ninković, Aleksandar Srećković Kubura, Tamara Krcunović, Nenad Okanović and young actors Luka Grbić, Jana Ivanović, Maja Čampar, Stojša Oljačić and others.
The film was produced by Telekom Srbija and Bombona production company, while Dunav Osiguranje is the film’s sponsor.
“Why are My Thoughts so Conflicted” will be released in cinemas on Thursday, September 21st.