Dalibor Matanic, Cannes Winning Director
We met Croatian director Dalibor Matanic (Fine Dead Girls, Kino Lika) on a water-side terrace at Cannes for the 2015 international film festival. We went in to find out more about the director and his latest film, The High Sun (Zvizdan), which won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes and the Golden Arena for Best Film at Pula Film Festival, and we ended up getting a life philosophy lesson. We could see Dalibor’s infectious energy and laid back cool translated into his work.
The High Sun offers a stunning portrait of love, hate and divide amidst conflict. The film was as visually stunning as it was engaging in its performances and story lines (Matanic offers us three). The trio of love stories that were told ten decades apart cover the arc of the war, and were performed by the same actors, Goran Markovic and Tihana Lazovic, in tale inspired by a wartime Romeo & Juliet. In this version, their love exists on opposite sides of an ethnic divide. Although the surface of Matanic’s latest film offers an illustration of love, the true potency of The High Sun, is a reflection on hate, divide, and the pain that these most unnecessary of life’s complications bring. Matanic’s latest contribution to the world of cinema is engaging, artistic and an all round triumph from every cinematic angle.
“Just don’t fear anything. If you do something wrong, live with it. Let it flow. It wont kill you. Shake it off.” Dalibor Matanic
CM: When did you first realize that you wanted to pursue directing?
It was from age 13 until the time I wanted to be a journalist, but somehow I realized that I am happiest in cinema.
CM: What do you feel when you are on set?
Freedom. On the set of The High Sun, I was telling everyone–the actors, the crew– to just enjoy; this is a privilege. We are doing something worthy. We are not rushing. It is a good thing for the actors because when they can really be relaxed, it is only then that they can give you everything.
CM: Do you improvise?
We plan the basic idea, but then we experiment with the camera. We want to search… there is a photographic saying “Let’s dive with the actors into the characters” let’s find their souls. It is like that, especially with this film where you cannot pull out some inner world, not explicitly show everything, which is boring for me. The world is always much more intimate. It is intimate to shoot.
“This is why I wanted to make this film a mirror to those who don’t love, because it is easier to hate than to love.” – Dalibor Matanic
CM: What drove you to make The High Sun?
It is a personal story. Years ago, I grew up with my grandmother, and she gave me all the love in the world, but when it came to girl later on she always kept repeating to me, ‘Just please, don’t let it be a Serbian girl.’ this was shocking to me that this creature who gave me all the love in the world, could say this thing. That’s how I got the idea for the film, and then I started to develop it. It is a universal thing. When somebody likes to love, he will love it, but when someone likes to hate, it doesn’t matter if it’s a black, a gay, a Serbian; this code of hate is everywhere in the world. This is why I wanted to make this film a mirror to those who don’t love, because it is easier to hate than to love.
To overcome this history of hate, all these wars, all these politics, this way of life of having to find the strength to overcome this thing.
Every moment that history stands in the way of love, I stop the story, and start a new one, every ten years. Just to play with history because history is always playing with us.
CM: Why did you choose two actors to play all these roles?
History is also the reason for choosing two actors for the six characters. You are aware that they are different characters, but you recognize their faces, and subconsciously you feel how history repeats and repeats. I wanted to create this message that the audience is aware that history repeats unless you stop it.
CM: The transitions and the ethnicities of the actors were blurred, was this intentional?
It was intentional; in order to see the effects of this hate. I dont want to show explicit things such as war, but rather the consequences of this hatred. But even now you see all these kids of younger generations born to hate… something needs to change. It’s very hard not to create something positive, but I think everywhere in the world, this is the basic key of humanity: to share positive energy.
CM: How did you prepare the actors?
I had a rule on set, which I think they [the actors] liked: “It should be unserious behind the camera, and comppletely serious in from of the camera.” This was good because it helped them relax, and when they are relaxed–with no tensions and hard scripts–they can achieve the maxium. Each of the three characters have their differences, but they are smiling, it takes a lot of focus to acheive this, to give them freedom. Together we are creating solutions.
CM: Best advice for aspiring Creatives?
Just two things: dont fear, dont fear anything in your life–or on set–and enjoy, and this is the most imporant thing in life. Each second in life should be about enjoyment, good or bad you should always fight for the enjoyment. People are sometimes tight, they fear, and I think life is much simpler than what you see. People often say life is complicated, but its not, you make it complicated. Your mind is complicated, but in reality, it is all very, very simple.
When we were shooting the film, there was a shepherd and his sheep, and we were waiting for the fog on the mountain to lift. He comes out of no where and says to us, “in life, don’t be nervous” and then walks back into the fog. We were all ‘Woooooaaah… this is some zen buddhism on the top of the mountain!’
So, just don’t fear anything. If you do something wrong, live with it. Let it flow. It wont kill you. Shake it off.