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KARLOVY VARY 2019 Competition

Marko Škop • Director of Let There Be Light

Let There Be Light is my own authentic message”

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- Cineuropa talked to Slovakian writer-director Marko Škop about Let There Be Light, his follow-up to the critically acclaimed Eva Nová, the polarisation of society and his documentary background

Marko Škop  • Director of Let There Be Light

Slovakian filmmaker Marko Škop is competing for the top honour in the main competition of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival with this latest drama, Let There Be Light [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Marko Škop
film profile
]
. Cineuropa talked to the writer-director about his follow-up to the critically acclaimed Eva Nová [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Marko Škop
film profile
]
, the polarisation of society and his documentary background.

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Cineuropa: Let There Be Light is a drama with wider social implications, as opposed to the rather intimate chamber piece Eva Nová, your fiction feature debut.
Marko Škop: The reason why Let There Be Light is different and maybe more up to date is down to the extreme polarisation of modern-day society, and this is something that I see not solely in Eastern Europe, but more generally in Europe and the world. I’ve heard that paramilitary groups are emerging in Brazil as well. The film broaches subjects that were not normal ten years ago – hatred and hate speech used to be contained behind closed doors, but now, with Donald Trump, everybody can talk freely about how they are against certain people. However, they don’t think it through – it is actually pure aggression. Let There Be Light has emerged from this political climate, but I hope it does not convey it so explicitly.

The film reflects an important social movement, and that is something I have always taken an interest in. I believe it is something atavistic in us – mankind – to think that our neighbour or fellow man can easily become an enemy. They are somebody who is latently capable of hurting me, so it is in the nature of our psyche, and Let There Be Light is my commentary on this topic.

When you started writing the script, the situation regarding the extreme polarisation of society was not so acute. Is this another case where the real world caught up with the story rather unexpectedly?
Somebody else has to be the judge of that. I try to sensitively perceive what is happening around us, but every one of us has his or her own litmus test. What with everything that has been happening around me – not solely in Slovakia, but in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Croatia – society and life itself are truly being polarised, and I wanted to depict that in the film. But family remains at the core of my movie, and that’s the key theme for me.

Right, but Mira Fornay’s My Dog Killer [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
reflected these sentiments about polarisation, while last year’s documentary When the War Comes [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
depicted the extremism of young people more openly. How do you see this thematic overlap?

I can appreciate both of those films; I consider them to be very good, and naturally, I follow auteur filmmaking in world cinema so that my movie can be understood in this broader context. However, I am not trying to make the next part of those films. There is no relation, even though I am aware of the context. Every auteur has to find his or her way, and Let There Be Light is my own authentic message.

Why did you decide to write a story combining a Gastarbeiter (economic migrant) with a tragic incident in his home village, ultimately leading up to a kind of clerical fascism?
That’s what lies at the core of the story – the father-son relationship. The father attempts to reverse the discourse of the upbringing he experienced. There is very little difference between the upbringing of our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. To a large extent, it was a cold upbringing. Michael Haneke illustrated this nicely in Happy End [+see also:
film review
trailer
Q&A: Michael Haneke
film profile
]
. The middle generation is trying to change that. I personally feel there’s a breaking point in terms of upbringing now, and I wanted to demonstrate that through the story of a man who wants to change this but does not go about it the right way. This was the starting point for Let There Be Light.

How does your documentary background translate into your work on fiction films? Do you encourage improvisation on set, or do you stick rigidly to a script?
I do not improvise on set that much; I do tend to do rewrites on the script during rehearsals, which is a very important phase for me, and I believe the actors appreciate it. So if I catch something “off-key” during rehearsals or an actor approaches me with an interesting idea, I am thankful for that and I incorporate it into the script. Naturally, it does happen on the set, but not all that often, because there is a lot of pressure to respect the daily shooting schedule and budget.

Did you have a big crew on set?
We had about 25 people, and in the scenes with a lot of extras, it grew exponentially. But we have rather a “chamber” film crew.

Are you already working on your next project?
I have a theme, or even some themes, that interests me. I am currently doing some research, but it is too early to discuss it in any depth, since it is rather sensitive.

Would you consider returning to documentary filmmaking?
Of course. If there were characters whose story would be better served by the documentary form, I would gladly consider documentary filmmaking.

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