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Dejan Zečević • Director

Deconstructing genre


- After a docu-fiction, a horror film, a comedy and a thriller, the Serbian director has decided to mix genres in a movie about the Bosnian war: The Enemy.

Dejan   Zečević     • Director

After docu-fiction hit The Boy from Junkovec, Serbia’s first slasher horror TT Syndrome, camp comedy Little Night Music and thriller The Fourth Man (in the vein of The Bourne Identity), Serbian director Dejan Zečević decided to mix his genre sensibilities in the Bosnian war-related story The Enemy [+see also:
film review
interview: Dejan Zečević
film profile

Cineuropa: Lately a number of Serbian films have been shot in the Republic of Srpska and more are coming. Why do you think this is happening?
Dejan Zečević: First of all, there are funding sources there. Second, a part of the corpus of themes that currently preoccupy Serbian filmmakers concerns the war in Bosnia so it’s also a chance to use the right locations for shooting. My film takes place there, in that period with those kinds of characters, so we decided to shoot there. Then we found a local co-producer [Tihomir Stanic’s Balkan Film] who managed to get finances from the fund of the Republic of Srpska.

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Usually genre war films are set during a war itself. Why did you choose for your film to take place seven days after the end of the war?
The absurdness of removing your own land mines was interesting to me for the beginning of the film. Also, the set-up in which the characters have an increased wish to leave the place since the peace treaty has been signed serves the story. The situation in which they have to stay there longer than expected creates additional tension and anxiety. Second, the idea of creating conflict out of nothing wouldn’t work if the story were happening during war operations. Also, I didn’t want to make a literal war film.

The characters seem to crack one by one. How did you choose in which order that happens?
I didn’t want the audience to be sure when exactly the problems have started, but for them to slowly develop. The characters like the sniper or the religious soldier are clearly more susceptible to that kind of influence, and some of them don’t crack at all and just use the situation to their own advantage. I wanted different characters to crack through different mechanisms.

The character found in the factory is never fully determined – he could be the devil or God, a demon or the “demiurge”, the creator of the world.
There was a bit of a discrepancy between the original script and the film. In the script, he was much more clearly the devil. But during script development with [co-screenwriter]Djordje Milosavljevic, I was more interested in what was happening to the group of characters and I was leaning towards the idea of him being a sort of a mirror in which they would see their own flaws, and project them onto him. I think it’s a basic human need to have a projection of good and evil in someone else, to have a leader or a hero or a god, so that’s why I didn’t want that character to be fully determinable.

The Enemy is simultaneously an arthouse and genre film, it clearly has elements of both.
As a moviegoer, I always easily notice the difference between arthouse cinema and genre films. In the first five seconds I can tell what kind it is, just by the feel of it. I have to admit that I find that very annoying. The Enemy is somewhere in between. It has the feel of a genre film, but also provides something to think about. Those kinds of films used to be much more present, like in Hollywood in the 70s.

I like genre but I also like to deconstruct it and use it to stronger effect. I am very happy that I had the chance to make that kind of film, it’s very personal to me. All my films are, up to a point, a realization of childhood dreams, but this one particularly so. That’s why it’s possible I’ll never completely adapt to arthouse or typical commercial fare, but as long as I can make the kind of films I like, I’ll be happy. It can be a problem because festivals and audiences may not know how to classify it, where to put it, but that’s irrelevant to me compared to the fact that it’s the film I always wanted to make. And every film that has some value finds its audience, the people that are supposed to see it.

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