Although forbidden to leave Russia, Kirill Serebrennikov was still able to discuss with us “Petrov’s Fever”, his new film. It was during the last Cannes Film Festival, and thanks to a computer.
Three years after the electrifying Leto, Kirill Serebrennikov was back in Cannes competition with La Fièvre de Petrov. But, while the majority of the talents had been able to make the trip to the Croisette, he again shone by his absence, struck with a ban on leaving Russian territory, after being under house arrest a few years earlier.
It is therefore through a screen that we speak with him about his new feature film. A situation to which the Covid and its confinements have accustomed us since 2020, but which allows Kirill Serebrennikov to promote his film, a visually crazy adaptation of Alexeï Salnikov’s novel on an alcoholic stroll between dream and reality, and to continue to shoot the next one, a few minutes after we have finished answering our questions.
AlloCiné: Two years ago, it would have seemed strange to us to speak with you through a screen. Today less, so we imagine that you experienced this way of communicating rather well during the pandemic and the containment.
Kirill Serebrennikov : Yes, and people have even asked me for advice about being isolated, having had experience myself. We told me : “Can you tell us what to do if we’re locked in your apartment?” So I recorded a little seven or ten point video, with tips, ideas for other people, on what you can do, how you can improve, or the best way to pass the time.
It is hard not to think of the Covid in the face of Petrov’s condition, with the flu and the fever he suffers from. Was the film shot before or during the pandemic?
We shot before. At a time when words “pandemic” Where “flu” were not even spoken. Obviously, the film is now open to other visions. And I think people can’t see our characters coughing on screen without thinking about the masks.
Today, of course, it seems ridiculous, strange and terrifying. But we started shooting before, and our film probably had a little bit of a prophecy about our nearest future. Unfortunately. But the flu in the movie is not about the Covid. Not even the disease. It refers to the high temperature between people, to the feeling of anxiety and loss, to this scent of madness and absurdity between people.
People can’t see our characters coughing on screen without thinking about masks
What did you like about the book “The Petrovs, the flu, etc.” to want to adapt it into a film?
It all started with my producer Ilya Stewart, who asked me to write the script for other directors. Being then under house arrest, I told him “Why not”, because I had a lot of time. When I started working on the book, I understood how fascinating and very interesting it was, since it made me immerse myself in my own past, in my own childhood.
When I finished the script, I asked Ilya if he had a director to do the film. As he replied no, I volunteered and we started working on it. And it was a moving, interesting and crazy trip. Without doubt one of the craziest of my life. It was also very weird, because we rehearsed a lot of these long takes which required very precise preparation.
And we were having a very strange winter in Russia, without any snow, so we had to cover the whole plateau and the scenery with fake snow. Since Petrov’s world is very artificial, we created it as if we were doing Game of Thrones. By giving birth to a whole crazy universe. It was a very interesting task.
You mentioned those long shots that you find in the movie: do they make it easier for you when you’re in the editing room, or do they make post-production more complex?
I prefer long takes because they best express time, this idea of time in a film. Cutting allows you to cheat on time, and I prefer to show how time passes in the image. This is why I pushed for us to prepare and create these very complicated plans.
There are a few of them in Petrov’s Fever, and it’s very useful for expressing certain things in the story. And it still felt like teamwork, because it took a huge amount of effort from everyone.
In the film, Petrov is lost between dream and reality. Would you say he represents you more as a director or a spectator? Or both ?
I hope he represents me well. And you too (laughs)
Because we are all stuck between our dreams and reality. Between birth and death, the past and the present. Always in a middle ground. And at New Year’s time, when the year draws to a close and the next begins, there is a void between the two as well. But I like that this in-between is a problem, a question for art.
In this film, as in “Leto”, great things happen when there is music on the screen. Do you manage to find the musicality of your films in too many difficulties?
You are right and I like this question because you have noticed that music is very important to me. I always start with her and sometimes I can’t prepare for the takes and I can’t prepare myself and I can’t figure out how to shoot the scene if I don’t have any music or musical reference. on your mind.
Right now I’m probably more sonic than visual, and the sound helps me create the picture. I need to be able to hear music or the sound of a movie, and that’s why I always start by making a soundtrack.
The sound helps me create the image
I read that you said that a film was shot on its own. What do you mean ?
A film always chooses its actors. A movie always takes the best places. I am a Buddhist and I believe, in a way, in fate. Our life floats as it is intended to float, and so does a movie. A film is a life in itself, and I am convinced that it takes what it needs in reality, in the situation around it. And it’s very important to have the experience and skills to know how to listen to the movie and understand what it needs.
What can you tell us about your next film, to finish?
It will be about a young woman of the XIXth century, mad with love and music.
More music then.
Interview by Maximilien Pierrette in Cannes on July 13, 2021
“Petrov’s Fever”: when Kirill Serebrennikov was in Cannes thanks to a smartphone