Renata Litvinova is an unconditional goddess and diva not only of Russian cinema of the last 30 years, but of Russian culture in general. The actress is Kira Muratova's mascot, a brilliant screenwriter, director and even (sometimes) a model, an absolute style icon, whose luminosity is obvious from anywhere in the world. The range of her occupations and interests is incredibly wide, but there is also an obvious connecting link, a common denominator, an author's signature - she always does everything according to her own rules. Once she said that the VGIK teachers twisted their fingers to their temples, not understanding how and for whom her first scripts were written. In response, she simply took and read them aloud, proving that her strange speech is one of the most living things in post-Soviet art.
Actually, this very speech has long become the most important component of Litvinova's image: timbre, tone, even the very formulation of words in a sentence. She was imitated, she was parodied - today almost everyone who wants to impress the press tries to talk with Litvin's "weirdness". The trick is that Renata Litvinova absolutely defies copying - only she can do that. Just once she found her voice and her image, and then started building her own country. Each of her films is a small news summary from these strange places where diamonds are a girl's best friend, not only because of their value, but above all because of the sparkling magic they contain. "Goddess: How I Loved" was a painting about love that goes beyond death. "Rita's Last Tale" - abouthow Death becomes the most faithful companion for love.
Her new work is called "The North Wind", and this is perhaps the most detailed journey into the universe of Litvinova. This journey began, however, with a play that the director staged on the stage of the Moscow Art Theater. Chekhov. The play was a resounding success and eventually became a film, which, according to the author, has become a kind of independent entity. We are talking here about the Land of the Northern Fields, where matriarchy reigned a long time ago. At the head of the house is Margarita (played by Litvinova herself) - a woman with a long metal index finger, who has been waiting for the return of her lover who left her for many years. The return should take place on New Year's Eve, which is equipped with a special 13th hour in the film. The film itself covers 13 years - or rather, 13 New Year's celebrations. Litvinova always calls her dream paintings fairy tales,but never, it seems, has ever addressed such a genre directly. It was all the more interesting to ask her about all this.
© Olga Tuponogova-Volkova
You have already said that the film "North Wind" is significantly different from the performance. Please tell us in a little more detail, what are these differences? At what point did they start showing up - during the script stage or during filming? Or maybe already during editing? Perhaps now that the film is ready, there is already some fundamental difference at the level of history?
It was boring just to reshoot the play on film. And the movie was completely different in essence. Somewhere halfway through the editing, many heroes were lost and the concentration on female images began. In general, theater and cinema are two different lives. There is no air in the theater and everything is in one room. Cinema needs air, passages, just silence … In general, a film was released about the reigning matriarchy - it really is now thickening in our territory, just men just cannot agree with him. But women are in charge: they are waiting for love and men are ruled by women in one way or another … Russia is a country with a female gender. Well, in general, demographically there are much more women - so who is in charge here, on the Northern Fields? We, of course! (Smiles.)
When you wrote the play, did you already know that it would become a film? At what point and why did you decide to film it?
When I was writing the play, there were no thoughts about the film at all! I wrote it for the theater. And when we talked about the film … There was a funny moment: I was asked if there is a script? And I got stuck. And then my friend and friend cracked my leg under the table - and I said: "There is a script!" So I got myself into the production of the film. So all life is unexpectedly predicted events. As in Russian fairy tales: you stand by a stone and choose your path.
You have repeatedly said that you begin to write in moments of mental decline, and the North Wind appeared as a result of depression. How did it start?
I left Moscow, settled down in my Paris apartment - I just retired, left everyone and everything, such periods attack me. Somehow solitude heals or finishes, and I had exactly "when it killed", but as a writer, I always know the way to cure - this is the happiness of my craft. Any disadvantages, suffering, I can turn into text - a huge plus. And in the end I am grateful: suffering forced me, let another text out of me. It was huge. Then I cut something, I finished writing for the actors - both in the theater and in the cinema, for everyone. As they say, she served all the actor's requests and roles. But this is already the second part of my business, first - to create the text, then - to implement it.
How did you come up with the idea with the additional 13th hour?
I love the numbers 12 and 13. The 13th hour goes on the clock right after the number 12, and in normal human clocks it is not drawn - only on submarine clocks, I've seen such. And the Northern Clan has this hour. And he gives everyone a chance to be stronger than death, at this very hour, but to use it, you also need strength. For what? My heroine, waiting for her beloved, has this power - she has something to live for and someone to live for: she wants to wait.
© Olga Tuponogova-Volkova
The film turned out to be very beautiful, a real winter fairy tale - a rare case for Russian cinema of building a large (and obviously expensive) fantasy art space. How was it created? Where did the shooting take place and how did you choose these locations?
The filming locations were chosen by our production designers, we traveled a lot of abandoned or semi-abandoned mansions. I liked our house because of the collapsed clock tower, on which, of course, we placed a clock with 13 marks. There used to be an estate where even the Pushkins lived, and in Soviet times there was a children's sanatorium.
I identified some other metro stations and the roof of GUM - its appearance is also quite unexpected …
The roof of GUM is the only object from which we could remove the main clock of the Country of Northern Fields: we planted our magical Red Square - a place of power - with a Russian forest in a blizzard and from there we celebrated another New Year in the film. Indeed, in our cinema - a series of continuous New Years with interruptions sometimes for decades. Demna Gvasalia, who created outfits for my heroine, once asked me before filming: "How many New Years do you have in the film ?!" I then answered: "Thirteen". And he made a red dress with a 13-meter train. Isn't 13 a pretty number? And certainly happy.
I totally agree, I am usually lucky with him too. Now, how did the work on the soundtrack go? What task did you set for Zemfira? Was the song written specifically for the film?
She first wrote outstanding music for the play, but our cinema came out as a completely new expression, and it began to "demand" new music from the composer. Although the aria for the Opera Diva, written especially for Khibla Gerzmava, we took entirely from the performance, and it is magical. Two songs that sound in the film, in addition to musical themes, were written by Zemfira on inspiration, intercepted by me and, of course, adorned the story. For example, the song "Angry Man" gave birth to two whole episodes in the picture - it is so strong, and dictating, and inspirational. In general, Zemfira has the strength as a composer - to be woven into the film, to influence events and be a co-author.
In the "North Wind" you again have a nagging feeling as if love is unattainable. How do you yourself formulate your attitude to this feeling? What does happy love mean to you?
"Happy love" is a strange combination of words, they seem to exclude each other. Love is the temporary possession of a loved one. People are doomed to lose each other. But this can be stretched to the very end and still make him happy! Maybe this feeling is true, as you say, painful, but I still insist that without love everything loses its meaning. In our film, chaos sets in and fields rot.
© Olga Tuponogova-Volkova
Your heroine's name is Margarita - and not for the first time. What do you have connected with this name? Rita Gaultier was in The Last Fairy Tale, and in The North Wind there are clear references to two other Margaritas - from Faust and Bulgakov's novel. How is each of them close to you and which one is closest to all?
Yes, almost all of my heroines are called Margaritas. Lord, what is there to hide, I named another heroine from my new play, which I am beginning to stage at the Moscow Art Theater, by the name of Margarita. But then our composer Zemfira already cried out that it was simply impossible - to call all the heroines by the same name - and we should not be lazy and come up with a new name. This prompted me to think: what name will replace me Margarita? (Smiles.) If there is anything in common between me and Marguerite Gaultier, it’s something that I have been cuckolding all my life. And since childhood, I had a red mantoux vaccine - I don't know, are they doing these to children now? I was even sent to tuberculosis sanatoriums. But, on the other hand, maybe I should stay with my concept and not twitch: let there be one stable thing in my life - a name. As for the references, this is an involuntary coincidence:I saw the poodle already at the site and did not expect that there would be masses of coincidences, and everyone there talked about the stench … She limps and walks with a stick. But one of your colleagues amused me most of all - she asked: “Is your heroine's long finger a phallic symbol? Is it a phallus in the absence of men? " I thought: “What is the answer? If you like, so be it."
Well, that would be too straightforward for you, I think.
I just wanted an abnormally long index finger.
Interestingly, my colleague was only interested in this metal part, although several characters have them.
It fascinates me - all these adaptations, a lot were not included in the film, which is a pity. There was even a dream: an operation with sewing a nose and a moment when a wedding ring is sewn into my mouth. And I like it when the hero wears a portrait of his beloved sewn to the skin.
In general, you have quite a few cultural references and allusions. How important is it to you that the viewer reads them and generally be an educated person?
The viewer does not owe me anything at all, but rather I should keep him. If the viewer is "burdened" with additional education, he will perceive subtexts and allusions, I only welcome this. Especially when there is imagination, as in the case of your colleague's thought about the phallus finger of my heroine.
This is not the first time you have called a fairy tale the genre of your film. What are your favorite fairy tales - in literature and cinema? How does their set change throughout life - which loved ones were before and which ones are now?
My favorite fairy tales are about Ole Lukkoye, "Sold Laughter", "The Snow Queen". And I also adore from childhood the Chinese fairy tales about a shadow that escapes from a person, also wanting to rule and turn into a person. I even have a character in the film - my companion - is named Shadow. But there is a heroine whose name is a Girl without a Name, because she forgot him. And a man without a name - it is as if the heavenly navigation loses him: he has no destiny, and death cannot find him without a name. This is also a law in the world of the Northern Fields I have invented.
What makes a fairy tale a fairy tale? These are not only magic wands and other external attributes.
Of course, the ability to extricate yourself from the obvious trouble - with the help of miracles and magic. This is possible in reality, but here you need to apply remarkable imagination and madness to believe in it. I had one fairytale character in the play - he is not in the film - he came across the whole action and across the whole plot. It was the North Wind itself. And he told all of us: "Not enough madness!" He asked for more. I would say that "not enough madness" is my credo, I always want more of it, and creativity without this rule would also be too boring.
© Olga Tuponogova-Volkova
Dreams are always important in your films. What are they to you?
This is the movie in my version - my personal dreams. We can all see reality for ourselves - from the bus window, for example. The purpose of art is to show you something that is above your usual life and to cause catharsis. Simply cleansing. I would like that after my film something magical was revealed to someone and gave inspiration to continue to live on, and not kill.
All your films are subtly connected with each other - the names of the characters, some kind of repetitive motives. Are you deliberately writing the history of your own country, or does it happen involuntarily?
I have been writing all my life about my "personal Country of the Northern Fields", within which I live and preserve myself. There is eternal snow and cold, and there are many wonderful loopholes that I use in real life: for example, I have an "extra hour" for love and I can jump into another time dimension without loss - in short. And how do I advise everyone to come up with such a territory and "live" in it. It's a shame, it's a shame that the power of imagination is so underestimated by everyone. But not me. I'm a fan of dreams. Seeing them is a big test, by the way. But without dreams, life would not be mine.
Your storytelling method is very mosaic. History develops nonlinearly, there are leaps in time and space, which seem to put this very time and space into question. It is as if you are telling only those parts that are meaningful to you as a narrator, often neglecting some connecting episodes. Why is this way of telling stories close to you?
The dramaturgy consists, in my understanding, in highlighting only those parts that move the plot. During editing, I purposefully cut out everything that gives "sagging energy"; I cut off any chance of "falling asleep" with particular cruelty. In the play, I had a series of continuous New Years. In the cinema, I filled in the gaps between New Year's holidays with passions, murders, life behind the scenes: something that I could not afford in the theater appeared. In general, now I perceive the experience in the theater as a rehearsal before the film - the plot was played by me in all directions of development. It's a pity, of course, that a lot had to be cut, especially the surreal scenes, but something completely new came out. I assure you. In the cinema, just like in the theater, I followed the logic - I do not see the absence of connecting episodes. And I had a fix idea: to make the film exactly two hours long,like my teachers - directors Billy Wilder, Ernst Lubitsch. Still, this is the ideal duration of the picture.
How important is it to you that the viewer understands what you really mean? And what should he understand?
That life is worth living in order to wait for love. This is the main thing that should happen to a person. And this is my main concept in life.