Zrinko Ogresta • Director of A Blue Flower
“No director could be good without being a voyeur”
- The Croatian filmmaker talks about his film and its depiction of the lack of emotionality in the Balkans
Croatian filmmaker Zrinko Ogresta, whose eighth feature film, A Blue Flower [+see also:
interview: Zrinko Ogresta
film profile], had its world premiere at the Moscow International Film Festival and is now showing in the Official Selection of the European Film Festival Palić, talks about the femaleness of the film and the difficulty in expressing feelings in the Balkans.
A Blue Flower portrays three women, representing three different generations. How come a male director decided to make such a female-centred film?
The female side inside me is very strong and this is not the first time I am making it clear in a film. When I say female side, I refer to emotions and my understanding that one should not refrain from expressing feelings. My previous work, On the Other Side [+see also:
interview: Tihana Lazovic
interview: Zrinko Ogresta
film profile], also portrays a complex female protagonist. I realise now that most of my works so far has dealt with women as central characters but my next movie, if there is one, will be focused on a male topic.
The plot zooms in on the relationships between a grandmother, a mother and a daughter and what is striking is that their way of communicating consists mostly in being harsh towards each other.
This is a very frequent pattern of behaviour around our Balkan region. In fact, this was my starting point, the reason I wanted to make A Blue Flower. The important things are never said out loud around here. Authentic affection is verbally expressed only in the last episode of the film, which happens in the protagonist’s imagination. Mother and daughter never say “I love you” although they obviously do care a lot for each other.
What is your explanation for that?
Patriarchy, which prevails in the Balkans, probably has a lot to do with it. Which is not necessarily only negative. Nowadays, it’s very fashionable and popular to talk negatively about these typical implications coming from our area. And if one day I get to deal more profoundly with the topic of patriarchy, I would rather put the accent on its positive sides such as family values, commitment and devotion to a single woman, responsibility towards children. Those virtues arose within patriarchal frameworks and they seem to be vanishing today.
But in A Blue Flower we are seeing mostly the negative outcomes of patriarchal authoritarian behaviour.
That’s why I made this final scene! In order to show, although in a phantasmagoric way, that warm feelings are there, even if they are not being expressed.
The main character Mirjana seems doomed to be alone, her relationships with men and her close relatives are not very good. What makes her so lonely?
It’s difficult for me to answer, that’s how she is and I can’t explain why. This is one of my few films based on someone else’s script – it’s written by Ivor Martinić, a young and very successful contemporary Croatian playwright. He gave me the script and I immediately recognised myself in it.
Men in the film have secondary roles. They seem useless within this female configuration and the episodic male characters are shown in a rather negative light.
I particularly liked the way the male characters were treated in the script. Ivor decided to deal exclusively with female characters and to use males only as tools to move the narrative forward. Therefore, they appear only where strictly needed. However, even in those brief appearances, the males are not only someone else’s function, their individualities are developed.
The narrative is not based on action dynamics but rather on emotional frequencies and on the silence that says everything without words.
Your observation is very correct. The Eastern perception of A Blue Flower tends to be generally closer to what I tried to imply, the film was very well received in Moscow, for example. Probably because, I would dare to say, Eastern European audiences are more prone to deeper, more reflective topics. I have not shown the film in the West yet but certain people have seen it and I can see the difference in their interpretation: they exhaust themselves on the level of the plot.
How did you choose the actresses? For such a plot, it is very important that they interact well with each other.
Of course, I started with choosing the actress to play the main character, Mirjana. And I decided on Vanja Ćirić as I am always trying to promote new faces. Although she in her forties, this is her first film role as she is a theatre actress. But I have been following her career since she was a student and I always knew I would work with her someday. Her selection entailed the attachment of the two other actresses. As for the grandmother Violeta, in the script she was supposed to be older, in her eighties but I decided to make the character younger and I chose Anja Šovagović-Despot, so that the audience wouldn’t be able to predict the ending, and for the character not to lose her authoritarian look and influence over Mirjana. The youngest actress, Tea Harčević, is a student at the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Zagreb. I was going to the academy to spy on her and observe her movements and behaviour without her knowing I was there, as I wanted an authentic input. After all, no director could be good without being a voyeur! (laughs)
What about the blue flower symbol? In Western romantic culture, it stands for hope and beauty, but have you charged it with any particular meaning?
I did not want to give any symbolic meaning to it a priori. I cannot explain its presence in the movie but thinking of it now, it does stand for beauty – something that I generally relate to women. That’s why in the scene in which it appears, Mirjana’s competitor is giving her this flower.
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