A month after the world premiere at the Venice Film Festival, the film "Suspiria", the author's interpretation of the 1977 film by Dario Argento, directed by Luca Guadagnino, is released in Russia. Guadagnino's previous work, the Oscar-nominated drama Call Me by Your Name, has become one of the most talked about film events this year. And now "Suspiria" is a genre cinema, which, however, is not reduced to a formal and visual experiment, but claims to study chthonic evil as a manifestation of human nature. According to the plot, the American dancer Susie (the heroine of Dakota Johnson) arrives at the Berlin Dance Academy. In the atmosphere of the school, headed by the famous Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton), there is something sinister and extremely dangerous, which is only confirmed by the mysterious violent deaths of her pupils.
The film stars choreographer and director Elena Fokina, whose career has developed in Europe over the past 17 years. She has worked in the Ultima Vez troupe of the Belgian choreographer Wim Vandekeibus, and has been involved in productions of other key figures in contemporary dance, including the Swedish choreographer and theater director Mats Eck and the German dancer and choreographer Sasha Waltz. With Fokina we talked about filming the film, "mysticism" and the mechanics of creativity, as well as the nomadic life of the artist.
- "Suspiria" is your film debut. What was this experience for you? How did the work go? What kind of relationship did you have with Luca Guadagnino, with the team?
- This is my debut in such a large project, but before that I already had experience in films made in the styles of plastic and physical theater, filming with Wim Vandekeibus. Luca has an amazing ability to rally a team around him into a large family that shares ideas and feelings. It was a pleasure to be among such talented people and brilliant professionals. It was a wonderful experience in every way.
For filming, two main locations were used, one in Italy, the other in Berlin. The scenes of Olga (the heroine of Fokina in Suspiria - RBC Style) were filmed in the Grand Hotel Campo dei Fiori in the Italian town of Varese, north of Milan, which has been closed to the public since 1968. This delightful building helped us all a lot to sense the dark, tense atmosphere we were trying to immerse ourselves in.
Grand Hotel Campo dei Fiori © press service
- The original film by Dario Argento is about the academy of classical ballet, the new film is about modern dance. Why did Luca Guadagnino decide to work with contemporary choreography?
- The film is set in 1977. Luca, along with the writers, did a lot of research on the choreography and art of the 1970s: what existed and was relevant at the time. I think the idea of using modern dance came from there.
“Suspiria is a horror genre, and in this connection it is interesting to talk about the“mysticism”and“mechanics”of creativity in general and dance in particular. How much has been said and written about the nature of creativity, but even the artists themselves do not fully understand its mechanisms. How surreal, inexplicable is manifested in the dance?
- I think everything is understandable. Where did the dance come from? Its roots are in the archaic, ritual dances, which were not just a set of movements, but also a special mental state. Today dance is more entertainment. But just in Luke's film, you see in motion not only the physical work of the body and its beauty, but also deep emotions that return us to ritual.
- You not only dance, but also teach and stage modern dance. What interests you as a choreographer to explore and embody in motion?
“We are born into a movement that never stops. Can you imagine how fast the blood runs through the veins? How many tiny movements our eyes and eyelids make, even when we sleep. And all this can be a dance. I am engaged in physical, plastic theater, which examines movement in all its possible manifestations.
Elena Fokina in the play "Oedipus" © Danny Willems
- In the mass consciousness, dance is associated not only with the beauty that we see on stage, but also with blood, sweat, trauma, pain. How does this correspond to reality? It’s impossible to live with pain all the time.
- This is not an exaggeration. Blood, sweat, and trauma are all there. Just like in sports. This is a job. The viewer sees the end result. She looks in admiration at this beauty and grace and thinks: how can they jump so easily, how she holds her leg so high, so bent and twisted. How this is achieved - by very intensive work. This is a physical and emotional connection at 250 volts.
- You mentioned the ritual of the movement. Contemporary dance works a lot with the deeper layers of the human psyche. What is more difficult in a dancer's work - to perform a physical movement or to enter a certain psychological state?
- Do it all at the same time.
- You have danced for many years in one of the best companies of contemporary dance - Ultima Vez by Wim Vandekeibus. How did you get into his troupe?
- I never set myself the goal of leaving Russia. I had a wonderful life and work here. In 2000, Wim came to Moscow for the European Dance Festival, arranged a casting to find dancers for his new project. My friends persuaded me to go, I did not believe that he would choose one of us, I told everyone so. And so he chose me and took me to Belgium.
Wim Vandekeibus and Elena Fokina © Danny Willems
- What is Vandekeibus's approach to dance, what does he put into his choreography?
- He is engaged in physical theater, which I learned from him. He uses all existing forms of expression on stage: movement, acting, video, photography, there are no frames for him. Wim always tries to find meaning in every movement - so that it is not a beautiful gesture, but a speaking, self-sufficient language. All elements of his performances are grounded and thought out to the smallest detail.
- There are not many examples of successful careers of Russian artists abroad. How did your creative destiny develop? What difficulties did you face? Or, on the contrary, was everything easy and simple?
- Of course, there are always difficulties, this is life. But in general I love the experiment, everything is new. I am afraid to lose the feeling of childish wonder in front of the world. We forgot that sunrise is a wonder of the world. Adults forget about these things. Therefore, everything was great for me. I was very interested, I got to know myself and did not regret anything. I worked with Wim in Belgium until 2015, with breaks for freelancing. All these years have been a time of touring, and this is also the most valuable experience of discovering the world, for which I am grateful to fate. After that, I was invited to the Stockholm Royal Opera as a teacher of modern choreography and a participant in theatrical performances. I no longer work there, but I still live in Stockholm. The decision to move to Sweden was due to the birth of a child and the desire for fundamental changes in my professional growth. The first two years of his life, the son traveled with us around the world and was completely happy. But the child needs his own routine and social circle. And just as my husband and I began to think about a more sedentary lifestyle, I was offered a full contract in Stockholm. So while we are there, and what will happen tomorrow, we'll see.
1 of 6 Elena Fokina in the play Puur © Yang Chew Chen Scene from the play "Oedipus" © Danny Willems Scene from the play "Oedipus" © Danny Willems Scene from the play "The Mirror" © Wim Vandekeybus Scene from the play "Sunrise on Mars" © Wim Vandekeybus
- In an interview, Luca Guadagnino said that, among other things, the artistic solution of the film was inspired by radical feminist art of the 1970s. Do you think the feminist agenda is reflected in the picture?
- He hit the spot. I do not know how things are in this respect in Russia, but in Europe it is very important. The #MeToo movement is the most eloquent example. I myself want to ask him - did he do it on purpose or did he intuitively feel the spirit of the times?
- How is this theme manifested in contemporary dance? Many choreographers raise social and political themes in their productions.
- I myself have not seen so many performances on this topic, but I can definitely say that they are being staged. For example, my friend in Sweden had a whole project. However, when talking about it, it is easy to pour water over the edge of the glass. Belgium has a #WeToo movement run by women, most of whom are contemporary choreographers. I follow their publications and discussions, and at times I am frustrated at the thought that discussions on this disturbing and relevant topic are acquiring unfounded interpretations. But in general, we need to talk about this and fight for justice.
- I know that you came to Moscow to prepare your own film project. Tell us about it.
- I have a year of debuts. The next one after Suspiria is the director's one. I am shooting a full-length feature film. This will be the first time in sci-fi history where actors interact through physical theater and dance.
- So the film has a plot?
- Yes, but I want to find ways to tell the story without narrative monologues, dialogues, speech in general, but moreover so that the viewer feels that they are talking to him. That is, the main way of expression will be movement.
I am afraid to lose the feeling of childish wonder in front of the world. We have forgotten that sunrise is a wonder of the world.
- How did you get the idea to make the film?
- This is a long-term project that started in 2015. The guys from Art 'n' People Company offered to stage a play and make a film. The premiere of the play - it is called "Between Heaven and Earth" - took place in May 2017 on the small stage of the Natalia Sats Theater. As for the film (the title, by the way, has been retained), it was supposed that it would be a short film, but when I sat down to write the script, it turned out that it was drawn to a full-fledged feature film. Which I am now doing.
- You have an international family: your husband is Italian, you are Russian, you live in Sweden. For many parents in such families, the question arises of what language to speak, how to instill in the child both cultures. How did you solve this issue?
- To begin with, I would just like to instill a culture. But this is a topic for a long conversation about parenting. Whatever you say and inspire the child, the first example for him is the parents. As for languages, when our son was born, my husband and I made a decision: mom speaks only Russian, dad - only Italian. It worked: he is now five years old, he speaks fluently not only in them, but also in English, in which we communicate with my husband among ourselves, and in Swedish, in which he speaks with teachers and peers in kindergarten. He has no problems with this at all, he easily switches from one language to another. I think he will learn a few more in the future.
© press service
- Did he confuse languages when he was just learning to speak?
- Of course, even I am still confused. (Laughs.) When he really wants to tell something quickly, he sometimes confuses. Now, in general conversation, we no longer follow the rule of language differentiation so strictly. He can also address me in Italian, because he knows that I understand. But in the beginning, discipline is very important.
- What are the features of the Swedish approach to raising children?
- Swedish education is generally considered one of the best in the world. We sent our child to the most ordinary kindergarten, without any bias, where he spends most of his time playing. People, just like animals, learn and learn about the world in the game. I think the child needs to be allowed to play until a certain time, and everything will be fine. The main thing is that in no case teach children how to play, they know better.
- Do you teach him to dance?
- Not. We are not trying to impose anything on him at all. The only thing was taken to the pool, because the ability to swim is vital. For the rest, we give him complete freedom. He, like any child, loves tinkering, collects herbariums, can look at his books for an hour. His interests are his interests, then he will choose what he prefers to acquire a profession.
- What do you learn from your child?
- Maternity. Love. This cannot be compared with the love of a man and a woman, this is different, this is love for centuries. That will never disappear.>