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Rok Bicek • Director

“The school in the film is like a micro society that reflects my country”


- Class Enemy, Rok Bicek’s first feature, was competing for the Lion of the Future at the 70th Venice Mostra and won 7 prizes at the Slovenian Awards, including that for Best Film.

Rok Bicek • Director

Cineuropa met young filmmaker Rok Bicek, the director of Class Enemy [+see also:
film review
interview: Rok Biček
interview: Rok Bicek
interview: Rok Bicek
film profile
. This first film competed for the Lion of the Future at the 70th Venice Mostra where it was selected for the Critics’ Week. Class Enemy recently won 7 prizes at the Slovenian Awards, including that for Best Film.

Tell us about the writing of the screenplay…
Rok Bicek
: I directed this movie two years after my cinema studies. Those two years were complicated. I had the story in mind, but it seemed too complex for a first film. In the end, I managed to write the screenplay notably with the help of Nejc Gazvoda. He is very good with the economy of dialogue and it is obvious when you watch his films. Janez Lapajne, who had been my tutor during workshops, also took part in the screenplay of Class Enemy, which he also coproduced.

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Where does this story come from?
When I was in my first year in high school, a girl two years below me committed suicide and her classmates led a rebellion in school following the tragedy. They accused the educational system. They had a radio programme similar to that in the film. Those shows really stuck in my mind. Many of the film’s scenes actually happened in real life. In the film, the young Asian student says a very important thing: “The Slovenian people, when you’re not killing each other, you’re killing yourselves!”. Those are indeed two majors problems in Slovenian society. Our suicide rate is in the top 3 in the world and the country was scarred by the massacres that followed the Second World War when the side of the allies took revenge on the side of the collaborators. Both sides are still celebrated and commemorated in the country. My country is still divided like that today. I conceived the school in my film like a micro society that reflects my country and Slovenia is like a mini Europe...

The film is very realistic. No one is really black or white in this story...
I wanted the movie to reflect life and, in life, nothing is black or white. Good and evil are always linked. The identification of who is right or wrong is emotional. The film is like an emotional slalom between the students and the teachers, the parents and the students, the parents and the teachers and the teachers amongst themselves. The parents want what is good for their children by giving them freedom and imposing no parental authority, but that doesn’t help them prepare for the life they will have to face. The teacher is harsh with them and that is also for their own good. He coldly makes them face their own responsibilities.

Did you work with professional actors?
There are only 5 professional actors in the film: the main professor, the director, the gym teacher, the math teacher and the pregnant teacher. All the other protagonists are amateurs and were found in schools. I went from classroom to classroom with an idea of my characters in mind and I expected all the students to want to be in a film, but it wasn’t the case. The student in the role of the girl who commits suicide for example did not volunteer. She was too shy to raise her hand. It was exactly what I was looking for in that role, so I went to her and offered her the role. I then chatted with the ones who had volunteered to see if they would match any of the 9 students in the film. This selection was finally invited to the casting. This approach enabled me to have actors who really corresponded to the characters we had written in to the screenplay without having to rewrite anything or adapt the dialogues based on new personalities.

How did you finance the film and why did you not consider a coproduction with Germany since German is also used in the film?
The film was funded by the Slovenian Film Centre, which, for the second consecutive year, organised a call for projects for first films. We received 380,000 euros in cash and around 100,000 euros worth of technical services. Through the intermediary of a German producer, we submitted our project to Eurimages, but we decided to retract our application because of administrative irregularities to avoid a refusal that could harm future candidacies. My cinematographer, Fabio Stoll, is German and studied cinema in Munich. It was very difficult for us to find an Arri Alexa to film the movie, but his professors wrote him a letter of recommendation underlining the importance for him to shoot a film in Slovenia with a foreign director. He went to Arri with this letter and we benefitted from a significant deal on the camera that cost us less than half the price. This was a true German contribution to the film, for example, even if it isn’t a coproduction as such. 

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(Translated from French)

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