“The attitude towards death changes the perspective on life”
Life, death and family are the main themes of Dovile Sarutyte’s debut, A Feature Film About Life. A simple film, halfway between tragicomedy and biographical reflection, which stages, between memories and VHS tapes, some of the millennial concerns: the idealization of the past, the anxiety about a maturity that bursts in without warning and the gap almost insurmountable between generations.
– How did you help Agnė Misiūnaitė approach the role in which she was going to play an alter ego of yourself?
The main character of the film has the same name as me. But that is not a reason to identify her as my alter ego. I am using my family archive to help to express the suspended emotions of main character. So i needed a connection between main character and archives. That connection is the name.
Agne is non professional actress. It was the first acting experience for her. Though she didn’t have to invent the circumstances of the plot. She also had lost her father recently so what you see in the character is a combined experience.
– What are the challenges of turning one’s personal experience into a script?
You have to be brave to get naked. But I think, that if you are sincere, the audience will empathize. And it is working. I was glad to hear the feedback from the audience: I didn’t see you in that film, I saw myself. While this movie is very personal for me, the themes it explored are undoubtedly universal.
– You’ve used your own personal footage intertwined in the film, did you doubt on using something so intimate? How does in enrich the film?
Of course I doubted that. Personally it was difficult. On the other hand, as director I understood that this is a strong material, and it would be a loss not to use it.
– Why do you think that new generations feel immediate nostalgia associated with home video?
In grief people tend to go back over their memories. They want to relive precious moments with their loved ones, revalue past time. In the film present action and past memories blend together. Small details like sounds, similar actions or surroundings bring back certain memories for the main character. Home videos from my childhood, shot by my father, serve in the film as memories of Dovile’s past.
– When Dovile finds out her father has died, she heads onto the rooftop of her workspace. Where many directors may have chosen a teary close-up, you’ve opted for alienation. What were you trying to convey?
I wanted to make her small with her problem in this big world. That is a wider perspective of the situation. This is one of the stories of one person in this huge world. Besides that, human’s mind often makes a distance in difficult situations when it is too hard to cope with the feelings at particular moment.
– You start the film in Paris, where the main character reflects on the irony of spending the day sightseeing. Have you yourself ‘betrayed’ travelling by traveling this way as an adult?
I am sorry, I didn’t understand a question.
– The funeral sequence includes Top Drawer’s Song of a Sinner. How is this song special for you?
I think that both instrumental part and the lyrics are suitable for the subject of the film.
– The old generations used to mourn their loved ones at home, but things have changed since back then and funerals now have so much bureaucracy as we can perceive in your film. How has the arrangement of funerals changed our farewell and grieving process?
At the end of the film, there is a clash of different generations, as we see the grandmother crying over her son being burned, while Dovile thought it would be more convenient and effective. Nobody is right or wrong in this situation. Just different attitudes.
There were a burial tradition of three days of farewell in Lithuania. Three days of crying and saying goodbye. To assimilate the loss. In these fast-moving consumption times, farewells have shorten. The subject of death is pushed away. We don’t want to think about it. This topic is difficult and not fun. But it is always relevant. I think, it is important not to push this subject away. We are not eternal. We need to realize and accept temporality. From attitude to death the perspective about life changes. / The understanding and acceptance of death can influence the philosophy / way of life.
– Do you plan on going on directing metafiction deeply personal films?
It takes a lot of energy. But it seems. that it is my way of creating. I could not be very productive in this way, because I need to regenerate, to restore the stocks.