Pavol Pekarčík • Director of Silent Days
“The intention was to create a photograph containing a film within itself”
by Martin Kudláč
- Slovakian filmmaker Pavol Pekarčík talks to Cineuropa about Silent Days, portraying a marginalised group within a marginalised group, authenticity and the relationship between photography and cinema
Pavol Pekarčík, a Slovakian editor, cinematographer and director who co-directed the critically acclaimed documentary Velvet Terrorists [+see also:
film profile], unveiled his latest project, Silent Days [+see also:
interview: Pavol Pekarčík
film profile], as a world premiere in the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival’s East of the West Competition. The film observes the lives of disabled children from a Roma community in a series of single-shot vignettes. He talked to Cineuropa about Silent Days, authenticity and the combination of photography and cinema.
Cineuropa: You have previously worked on fiction films by Martin Šulík (Gypsy [+see also:
film profile]) and Iveta Grófová (Made in Ash [+see also:
interview: Iveta Grófóva
interview: Jiří Konečný
film profile]), besides co-directing the award-winning documentary Velvet Terrorists. Why did you decide to stick with documentary filmmaking and make Silent Days?
Pavol Pekarčík: I don’t know if Silent Days uses the documentary form. I mean, what is the documentary form? I don’t like restrictive pigeonholing. I believe that categories bleed into each other when it comes to cinema, and it’s hard to point to a particular box that the film will be placed in. It’s common practice among scriptwriters to transfer witnessed or heard dialogues or situations into a film. And this happened on the films you mention. They are full of things observed from reality. As for Silent Days, the most important thing for me was to preserve the sense of authenticity, and this principle was applied to everything. I didn’t want to interfere with any situations with my editing or change the size of the frame and then subsequently need to repeat the on-screen action.
Silent Days is defined by a static camera shooting scenes from a specific, unchanging angle. It almost looks like a series of living photographs. Why did you choose such a visual approach?
It is rather about the visual language of film. I thought about the relationship between the medium of photography and cinema while using both of them at the same time, and this is the result. The intention was, as you say, to create a photograph containing a film within itself.
Another reason why the movie is made up of single-shot scenes is that if you look at the bigger picture of what is happening and it is long enough, you can cut your own film from it. You are not narrowing your focus down to important compositional aspects of the stories managed by the director; rather, you are searching for them on your own in a picture with this huge resolution, and you are doing your own editing. So if two people see the film, each of them will remember the same scenes differently in terms of their meaning.
Silent Days competed in the East of the West Competition at the KVIFF. The film looks like it was shot observationally, but you mentioned that you decided to also employ staged aspects. Why?
Silent Days originated as a documentary. However, if you are shooting a film observationally, you reach a point where the story has to begin to wrap up, or you need some constructional elements of the story that will help you narrate it. And this was where the staged aspects came in. If we’d decided to continue shooting in an observational manner, we would have had to wait for critical moments in the story, perhaps for many more years to come. Regarding the influence of the staged aspects on the movie’s authenticity, that is up to the viewers to judge – if they can find them, that is.
Your protagonists come from a marginalised group of an already marginalised group. Why did you decide to portray them, specifically?
Today’s society is atomising. We are living separated from one another, and communities are vanishing. The mutual connection between the communities is dissolving, as is the solidarity that stems from this connection. There are young people out there who have never met a Roma or a disabled person at any point in their entire education. Society is trying to push them onto the fringes. And these young people who have never been in a different social bubble are entering state offices and the public administration. How can we expect them to have even a basic emotional understanding of the people they are supposed to be taking care of?
This is a peek into one of those bubbles, into its problems and joys. We discover that even disabled kids from a marginalised group have their own dreams, and that should help us to be more empathetic – and maybe even inspire us to try to find something that could help them. That is something I might expect from the viewer.
Are you working on any other projects?
I am wandering around Ukraine, so the next project will probably arise from this environment.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.