Solomiia Tomashcuk • Director of Between Us
“These are just the questions that I myself wanted to answer, and I posed them to my heroines”
- The Ukrainian director sat down with us to discuss her psychological thriller revolving around an unusual friendship and its tragic consequences
Solomiia Tomashcuk's film Between Us [+see also:
interview: Solomiia Tomashcuk
film profile] has been premiered at the Hamburg Film Festival, as part of the special Molodist competition. The movie tells of a girl called Sasha, who has made friends with an older woman, the gynaecologist Anya. This strange friendship leads to tragic consequences for them both. The Ukrainian director talks to us about her thriller.
Cineuropa: The plot of this psychological thriller is very complex and even confusing. Did you work on the script yourself? How did the ideas come to you?
Solomiia Tomashcuk: I worked with my husband, Yura Dunay, who is the cinematographer of this film. The initial idea was Yura’s, but it did not seem like a thriller – more like a simple drama. Then, I simply delved more into studying the thriller aspect, and we pushed it in this direction – that is, we came up with psychological portraits of the characters, and worked on the background and the story. There were a lot of drafts; I can’t even say how many. After we received funding from Derzhkino, to which we submitted one version of the script, it was then heavily reworked, and by the final stage, it had changed quite dramatically.
Can you explain why Sasha, played by Anastasia Pustovit, is so ambiguous? It’s not immediately clear whether she is good or bad. And a good man, Zahar, who is a war veteran, lives with her. Was this nod to the war necessary to include in this psychological thriller?
The problem with the heroine herself, Sasha, is that she is a child who has not grown up – she is stuck at the age of five or six. Why did we make this link with war? Well, first of all, we cannot ignore what has been happening in our country for the last eight years, and secondly, we are talking about Sasha’s rather ambiguous attitude towards the war, because she basically blames her husband for the fact that he left to go and fight. It is a slightly ambiguous position, but one which is also present in us. Here, it is taken into account more from the point of view of this woman, whose husband went off to war and who was left alone, without support. She cannot learn to live alone. Because she is a child, she needs to be attached to someone constantly, which is why she has such a strange relationship with the character of Irma Vitovska, Anya. Our heroine is not independent. And as for whether she is good or bad, she, like everyone, has “plusses and minuses”. Here, it is difficult to say what is positive and what is negative.
Did you have any references among European thrillers? Were you inspired while writing, perhaps by any films or directors in particular?
I will say that when I started to be interested in thrillers, I began watching only thrillers and horrors, and that's what I basically continue to watch now. But there are many references. I remember that at that time, the main reference was David Fincher’s Gone Girl.
This story is very feminine. What did you bring to her personally, as a woman?
I don't know. All of these stories, all of these characters – there is always a part of the author in them, although I had a very good childhood, so I can't complain. I think that there is a tangle of questions inside me that I am trying to figure out. For example, to what extent are you willing to go to great lengths for the sake of someone, or for the sake of something, and violate moral standards? These are questions that I ask myself – even more so now. Can I cross this line? And where does this boundary end? What is my priority right now? These are values which, now, after 24 February, you start to think about on a deeper level. Of course, I wrote this earlier than that, but I think that these are just the questions that I myself wanted to answer, and I posed them to my heroines, roughly speaking, and watched how they would react in given situations.
Can you tell us why you decided to become a director in the first place?
First of all, I studied fashion design in Lviv, and when studying there – I don't remember how it happened – I set up a small theatre. I put on plays there and even performed a little. That was my first education, and for my second step, I went to enrol as a theatre director. And it just so happened that I wanted to enrol in preparatory courses, but for some reason, I was enrolled not as a theatre director, but as the director of feature films. That's how I came to do my Master, and it’s also how I started to take an interest in cinema. What’s more, now, to be honest, I hardly go to the theatre because for me, cinema is still more intimate and more realistic.
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