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An Interview with Radu Zero, the Director of 'SAG MIR, WIE LANG'

Tell us about yourself. How did you become an artist?

Until I was a teenager, I lived under the worst communist regime in Eastern Europe, that of Romania. Until it ended in 1990!

As a result, creating has been a matter of course for me from the start, an act of resistance and desire above all the difficulties of life.

My parents were visual artists, so I immediately developed a vital passion for images.

After leaving my country and moving to Switzerland, I practiced contemporary painting for more than twenty years and then, around the year 2000, I created my first art films for international galleries.

They were so enthusiastically received by the public that, little by little, my work shifted towards art cinema, experimental if you like... (For me, any work of art is experimental in the noble sense, so... I don't know if you can call it experimental. That would be a pleonasm).

What was your first job in the art field?

A great Swiss architect fell in love with my work as a painter around 1999 and became my patron. I painted for two years under his financial arrangements.

Then, having arrived in the world of art video, I was employed in Lausanne by a major theatre company to create scenic films. A comfortable job, paid monthly. Between 2010 and 2011.

What makes you want to tell stories? In other words, what are the themes/issues you want to incorporate into your work?

I'm convinced that today an image has to be absolutely necessary to exist; it has to be deeply desired. Paradoxically, I think that images pre-exist and are connected to a collective unconscious. I think that the strongest, most essential images are hidden between the folds of the images we see and experience on a daily basis. They are precisely the images of desire, of the repressed, of everything that cannot happen but that we want more than anything. What drives me to tell stories is the desire to make visible the spectres of images floating in our universal unconscious. The axes that I systematically integrate into my work are probably: disappearance, emergence, the invisible, unfulfilled desire, visual ghosts. These are the fundamental subjects of my films. In terms of themes and forms, my creations insist on the quasi-sacred presence of women at the heart of the images. She is the common denominator, the Ariadne's thread between my productions, whatever their concerns. As an object of desire and image in the literal sense, the identity of 'the woman' remains for me today, more than ever, a burning social issue that needs to be questioned, deconstructed and desired.

Please tell us about your vision and your method of approaching a new project?

Starting from the premise I mentioned earlier: "images pre-exist", I believe that cinema, this late art form, nourished by the sum of all artistic and sociological mythologies, is by definition the art of what "pre-exists". It is also the art of ghosts, of the ineffaceable, and of vampirized time, since everything that pre-exists the film will be locked up in the object of its making, once it is finished.

As a result, over time I've developed an idea of filmmaking that's integrated into the process, from writing to production.

This idea is that everything in my films has to be connected. Each film is a response to the previous one, each shot, each sequence is another reflection of what anticipated them in other situations, in other films that I have made. The paradox in my method is that everything is linked but fragmentary. This predisposes me to constantly invent on different reading levels.

I've been creating a filmic puzzle for almost twenty years. My films are made up of sedimentary layers that can be discovered in depth as you watch them.

Everything is there, yet each shot is charged with something else. It's this 'elsewhere' that I approach when I'm shooting, filming hours of rushes, looking for the unseen, the image missing from the cycle of finished images.

The one triggered by an accident, a rustle, an unexpected intention on the part of the actress, a magnetic out-of-frame...!

So when I start a new project, I have to commit to it completely. It's built up at the same time as it anticipates the next one.

So I have to free myself from material expectations, production expectations and so on. It's a radical gesture, taking all the risks, concerned only with the inexplicable.

Who are your filmmaking influencers? What are the films that were influential for you?

The filmmakers who have played a decisive role in my choices and who have guided me are clearly : Brian De Palma, Michelangelo Antonioni, Dario Argento, Hou Hsao Hsien, Nicolas Winding Refn, Lucio Fulci, Michael Mann, Louis Malle, Maya Deren...

The films that changed my life, that pushed me to make films, it's difficult but, I'm trying, in order of influence: "BODY DOUBLE" ( Brian De Palma ) / "LOST HIGHWAY" ( David Lynch ) / "MIAMI VICE ( Michael Mann ),"" ASENSEUR POUR L'ÉCHAFAUD" ( Louis Malle ), "TO OLD TO DIE YOUNG" ( Nicolas Winding Refn ), "TROPICAL MALADY" ( Apichatpong Weerasethakul ) "L'ECLISSE" ( Michelangelo Antonioni ), "SUSPIRIA" ( Dario Argento ), "A WOMAN IN A LIZARD SKIN" ( Lucio Fulci )...

Director Radu Zero

How do you think the industry is changing? How has COVID affected independent filmmaking/creation?

I think that today, more than ever, the film industry is in a very delicate position. Increasingly dependent on the tastes of the public. Because of technological developments, the accessibility of audio-visual works and its sense of authority over creation, the public is dictating its rules to the production of new films in a subliminal way. The COVID in all this, beyond its critical aspect, has had the advantage of freeing up a little more spontaneous filming, the production of riskier films, directly intended for online viewing. No pretence. As far as I'm concerned, it's a slight evolution towards a more decomplexed cinema.

What advice would you give to aspiring artists? What are some of the things they must follow/avoid?

Never think about money, never! Study, study, study and then break the narrative patterns; endanger their principles, their shots, their editing. Always shoot more than you planned.

They should follow their instincts rather than technique. They should avoid following the production niche around them, and connect with their cinematic fantasies. Find the door to a filmic elsewhere: their own!

Do you think films/stories can bring about a change in the world?

There's no doubt that fiction and film are changing the world. I'll go even further: our world has closely followed the evolution of cinema since its classic days. And it has shaped society according to its aesthetic laws.

When we talk about aesthetics, we are talking about desire. The codes of creation are desire, and spectators respond to works of art with their personal desire. The spectator who goes to a darkened cinema to discover a film often makes it his object of desire, and vice versa. This interaction predisposes art to change mentalities and people. They are communicating vessels, moving forward together like History and the History of Art.

So yes, films can and do change the world. It all depends on how we look at it. It's all in the eye of the beholder!

What do you think people like to watch these days? Has the pandemic changed people's taste?

It's a tricky one. Distribution platforms have taken on enormous power and invaded the way we choose and watch films. In my opinion, it's a phenomenon that profoundly undermines the public's ability to make deliberate, considered choices when it comes to a film. Why should this be? The offering on these platforms validates a certain editorial line from the outset, and the simple fact of clicking out of curiosity on teasers, adverts or images that attract us triggers the algorithms inherent in the machine. Which means that, slowly, the public's choices are obscured, skewed by exhaustive layers of films that probably don't reflect the true choices of an enlightened viewer. It's a vicious circle. The machine proposes what it considers to be the right choice, based on anecdotal calculations. It's a different story for cinemas. But they're losing ground, so...

Please tell us about your upcoming projects.

I'm currently shooting the second episode of the selected film, SAG MIR, WIE LANG. As I explained above, my shots, sequences and images are reflections, double ghosts of other images. In the specific case of the film currently being made, it will definitely be an inverted spectre of the aforementioned film. This ghost film was already planned when the first film was shot. So much so that, in the end, images from the previous shoot, in 2022, will be present in this new installment. Once again, this film will be a tribute to genre cinema, but this time in a visual language more in keeping with the Midnight Movies of the 80s.

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