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KARLOVY VARY 2021 East of the West

Andrius Blaževičius • Director of Runner

“When we were presenting the film to some industry players, they would say: ‘Why is she running?! It’s nonsense.’ But is it?”


- The Lithuanian director might be showing his film in the East of the West competition at Karlovy Vary, but whatever you do, just don’t mention Tom Tykwer to him

Andrius Blaževičius • Director of Runner
(© Brigita Beniušytė)

It’s not a good day for Marija (Zygimantė Elena Jakstaitė), who has just found out that her boyfriend is having another one of his psychotic episodes, in Andrius BlaževičiusRunner [+see also:
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, presented at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. As she embarks on a frantic search for a man who doesn’t want to be found, everyone questions her choices. And the phone never stops ringing.

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Cineuropa: The first time I heard about the film, I asked if it had something to do with Run Lola Run. You said no, and now I understand why. Back then, I cheered on her race. Now, I wanted her to stop.
Andrius Blaževičius: I never want to create simple characters. In life, whenever I happen to observe it, everything seems so complicated. I wanted Marija to be so complex that some will want her to succeed and others will just deem her stupid for searching for a boyfriend that doesn’t want to be found. When we were presenting the film to some industry players, sales agents or festival programmers, they would often say: “Why is she running?! It’s nonsense.” But is it? Maybe in Lithuania, or Eastern Europe, we still have this idea that you have to do everything for your beloved. Take Dostoevsky! All these crazy people whose love is also crazy and you have no clue what the hell they are doing.

Some people certainly tend to think that women should be martyrs, “sacrificing” themselves for their partners or families, no? Marija is so young, she looks like a rebel, and yet she still does this.
In Lithuania, we tend to believe that when young people will finally come into positions of power, everything will change in our country. But this post-Soviet mentality is transferred from generation to generation. It’s not so easy to get rid of it right away, so you can have this hipster girl with tattoos, following patriarchal troupes. People who were born after 2000, maybe they will be different. But us? A few days ago, we had these huge anti-vaccine protests that ended in violence. Which is really not that common for Lithuanians at all – we are very low-key people. They protested against science, basically, and I am mentioning it because these were young people, too. You can’t judge a book by its cover.

It can be a difficult kind of love, loving someone with mental health issues. You get good days and bad days, but here, we don’t get to see him when he is fine.
I didn’t want to have this typical exposition where we “get to know the characters,” we get to understand why they love each other and then everything collapses. It’s boring. I understand I took a risk and some people can find it harder to engage. But I wanted the audience to create this whole backstory just based on Marija’s actions. You do get some insights, however – some friends are saying he is a great guy, we know he is talented and smart. I wanted it to be a puzzle that you have to solve by yourself.

Also, I didn’t want people to focus just on the mental health issues, which is why I don’t show it a lot. I wanted to show the sacrifice. This is my personal story, you know. I experienced it in my life, but I was “the girl.” I was Marija. In the film, it’s very condensed, but in real life, such episodes can take place over the course of a few days. You want to stop this person and when you are in that situation, some people understand you and some don’t. And it’s really, really hard.

You have just one day to show it all, to communicate how nerve-racking it is. Is that why the phone rings all the time, for example?
I wanted to start everything suddenly – she just runs out and the camera moves with her. It moves all the time, actually. These sounds, which can be very irritating, the music and the use of red colour, all of it makes you nervous, even though I wanted a bright film. It’s a summer day, but problems are happening.

You don’t give her many opportunities to openly talk about what is going on. Why?
In Lithuania, there is this stigma around mental issues. She always tries to hide it not to ruin his career, and then there is the question of shame. He runs off somewhere, hangs with other girls, he hits her – she is embarrassed. And it’s a very Lithuanian thing, to just hide everything. People don’t like to show their weaknesses and Marija is the same way. She is trying to save him, but also save herself and her image in the public eye. Take his mother – the first time she calls her, she tells Marija to stop looking, to finally take care of herself. Later, when she actually takes a stand, she goes: “What the fuck did you do?” It says something about our society, I guess, because it’s really like that. I have experienced it, so I know.

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