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PART PRACTICAL DIRECTION. Leningrad school, master-class The Dramaturgy of a Documentary Film

At first, there was an idea in this film. It was an idea of a graduate of the State institute of cinema. The idea was approved. It was at Ermitage in front of Leonardo da Vinchi's painting "Madonna Litta".The lamps were put in front of the picture to light the face of the spectator better. People were coming there just like butterflies on to the light, thinking that the work on restoration began. When the producer and the cameramen started watching people, the first sensation was the sensation of horror. Kingly goddess like Madonna - and the crowd of people battling trough opened, doors running by this wonder hurrying somewhere, paying no attention to Madonna. And the guide in a dull voice was speaking the same things indifferently every time. And a crowd of foreigners who photographed this picture, they called it: "Shooting down Madonna"...

The first conception, which appeared, was to make a film-topical satire about heatlessness, indifference to eternal values. The final has been thought over: at the end of the day when people's crowd melts away and the last visitors leave, and only a figure of a cleaner who seems to sweep the footsteps left by a numerous crowd of visitors and guides, takes away all daily tinsel, all superficial and then also goes away. "Madonna" after a horrible fair of "mugs" remains alone in it's special, inaccessible world for the majority.

We were shooting it a month and a half and in the process it became clear that there were also other spectators for whom the meeting with Madonna was an unforgettable, spiritual event. And the faces addressed to Madonna begin radiating the same light of Kindness. The conception of the film was remade keeping inside itself the caustic, satirical side but it had gone to the second-third plan.


Master-class: "The dramaturgy of a documentary film"

Films: "Make me beautiful" by L.Bakradze

"Driver's ballad" by V.Solomin:

- I regard these films as significant, that's why I asked Pavel to include them into the seminar. It seems to me that they cleverly express a definite method of dramatic art and non-fiction script. I give you several principles. The first, I tell non-fiction stories but stories having a plot and ending. It's easy to see in both scripts: there you see road, arrival and installation of a monument, and here- a kind of closed dramatic art of the completeness of the destiny of our so called "nosy ones".

The second, I think that for both sides is relevant that these films are based on modulating of situation. That created situation makes the essence of both pictures. I am sure that this method has its opponents but I am its ardent ally. It is based on the certitude that we can reveal the culmination of human spirit if we shall watch someone long enough. A year or a year and a half would suffice but we'll never have this amount of time. You have to find the ways to shoot a film at the moment of some culmination. You have to initiate situations when it happens. When I was preparing a script I made a trip along the Chuisk road together with Valery Solomin. We understood a lot of things. I put four stories into the script, four situations that should have been created. You ask why four? It's just like launching a rocket with several stages. So I had the outline of the story. We wanted to get an old truck and go by it along the Chuisk road, then we were to find some old drivers in Biisk. But first we had to think over what we make the film for, in the name of what. That's what usually is called the idea of the film. It's a long time this idea tormented me- the truth of a legend. Myth and reality.

We knew what to shoot and we went to Mikheev who lived in Novosibirsk. We had no script yet. We went to the Chuisk road only after he told us the story that you could see in the film. We found a standpoint. We were interested to find out if the story about the Snegirevs is true, if there is love and the romantic side of life. I never expected that we would make the film only during our trip so I made up two stories. The first one was about the repairing of the truck and the second one about youth amateur group in drivers' club rehearsing a song.

When the theme became more clear we could definitely see the conflict. Some people believe, some do not. Somebody thinks that love exists, the others disagree. When the conflict is definite we come to the construction. I think that good script is like a swing. You swing here, swing there and spectators swing with you looking for a way out. So we did knock opinions together and then built a construction. There is one more aspect necessary for the script- that's a genre defining an atmosphere. We knew that the film would be a lyrical one. It was clear that it would be built upon this musical note.

From our point of view the film is good in all the components. And this is because of the talent that director Solomin possesses. He has talent for communication, he knows how to evoke love and affection.

The documentary director cannot achieve success if he's deaf and dumb, if he is not able to win sympathies. Indifferent cameraman will make indifferent film. Solomin has a wonderful talent of communication. I think his talent makes him one of the most interesting directors.

The second film "Make me beautiful" was planned as a comedy or tragicomedy. Still we have a story. That's a story of people who wanted to correct their noses and finally corrected them. Here we have a situation, so we made an advertising stand, put on it all the photos and traveled in different areas of Georgia showing these pictures. We had a doctor who was to look for the persons wishing to correct their noses. It was a real story. We also have taken psychologists and painters...We found a new meaning in our film. The talks began and they were quite favorable but I swear we never expected it. Our film is against conformity, against the tendency to be like everybody else, for unlikeness. I don't know how it happened but this idea was brought but public opinion. I just wanted to have an opposition. I walked along the streets of Tbilisi and took interview and with the help of these interviews we got some third sense.

The fictional fragments, reminiscences from Gogol and Rostand were invented at the stage of script writing. At the same time an anecdote about new-born boy was introduced. That was borrowed because such film was already shot by a young man, amateur and student Roman Kokulia. But the film was lost. We look through all his parents' house (Roman got killed in a car-crash) but couldn't find it. Then we made a new film and tried to do it in an amateur manner.

Some more words in connection with the origin of the theme. I think that's very good that Flaherty is the beginning of our talk. But I take the liberty of saying that we fulfilled more than Flaherty did. Flaherty never modeled or reproduced human relations. And I think that our contemporary cinema and the cinema of 1960s reproduces not only situation but also human relations, so I think that transformation of document into art is the continuation and development of Flaherty tradition. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we fail, but we should keep on trying.


- What was before- the character or the script?


- If there is a hero worth filming then he'll be the beginning of everything. But I answer the question what is first- idea or its realization, method of deduction or induction? I haven't got abilities to bring life to the abstract idea which I got when contacting with the people. I can bring life to some situation that interested me or to the person I met. There are many people thinking that this idea may be brought to life. Then they begin looking for the ways to do it. And very often they attain marvelous results.


- Would you employ a character that is bad-tempered, has no sense of humor and is not attractive?


- The truth is concrete, I would do it if the background is good. If the servants can play the king then I'd do it.


- Let's take just an encounter. Is it dramatically well-blooded for you? You've met somebody and sit in front of him or her. The circle of your life on the one hand, the circle of his or her life - on the other. Your encounter, your opposition, your play. Tell me is it the dynamics of Flahertiana?


- You've tied together three things: your encounter, your play, your opposition. I would choose an opposition of all three as we are making an entertainment appealing to the spectators. If we had an opposition during our encounter this encounter will be the subject of my cinema. The play is also interesting. Though you must be light and airy for that and I am rather stubborn to get what I want.


- Do you have some special method to bring up the feelings?

XXI. Leonid Gurevich:

- A very simple method- keep telling myself: don't pass by, don't miss anything, listen carefully. Before every shooting I know what I want to get but the most dangerous thing is to miss the moment when the material begins to mislead me. I know only one way of autotraining: do your shooting with your eyes and ears open.

Couple more words about the purity of the documentary genre. The adherents of genre mixture are antipodes for purity lovers. The end of our century is characterized by the collage system penetration into all kinds of art. You may stand for the purity of genres but I am for the mixture. All the aesthetics is embodied in two moments. Either you consider an art a bit or you consider too much to be an art. Your perception of the world lies somewhere in between. I'm not a purist and I'm not an adherent of pure documentary cinema. Still you cannot do nasty things. This is not the same. Is it moral or immoral- everybody must decide it himself according to his own morality. But I don't accept pure or sterile documentary cinema. I am bored if