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HOFF 2020

Mart Sander • Regista di Eerie Fairy Tales

"L'horror esprime emozioni profonde e la paura è la più profonda di tutte"


- Abbiamo parlato con Mart Sander, regista di Eerie Fairy Tales, dopo la sua vittoria all'Haapsalu Horror and Fantasy Film Festival

Mart Sander  • Regista di Eerie Fairy Tales
Il regista Mart Sander nei panni di uno dei personaggi del suo film Eerie Fairy Tales

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Mart Sander’s anthology film Eerie Fairy Tales [+leggi anche:
intervista: Mart Sander
scheda film
was named the winner of the first-ever Estonian Genre Film Competition at the Haapsalu Horror and Fantasy Film Festival (HOFF, 8-10 May), with a Special Mention going to Rain Rannu’s Chasing Unicorns – as decided by the Läänemaa High School students, online owing to the pandemic. “The fact that these young adults chose a rather slow film, with not much action, violence, sex or even blood, shows that the new generation has very good taste,” said Sander. “HOFF is the only festival I never miss. I’ve always been the first one on the spot and the last to go. You are born in this festival centre, and then you die there – you never leave! I really miss that.”

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Cineuropa: There is a nice tradition of anthology horror films, from Tales from the Crypt to the more recent Ghost Stories [+leggi anche:
intervista: Andy Nyman
scheda film
. Is that why you decided to make your own?
Mart Sander: First of all, I have always been in love with old horror movies and TV series like Alfred Hitchcock Presents – ever since I was a child. I am also very pragmatic. I have made a couple of shorts, as I am currently doing my PhD at the Baltic Film and Media School, and I assumed there were two ways of making them visible: making this kind of TV series again, which unfortunately seems too expensive, or eventually turning them into a feature. I wanted them to have some connection, so I revived the tradition of having a “storyteller” in a film, presenting them all. Now, it’s pretty much forgotten and was probably one of the reasons why this young jury gave my film an award. For them, it was something new!

What is it that you like, or used to like, about “retro” horror?
I have to say that I have not changed at all since my childhood. My taste has stayed exactly the same. I remember watching my first horror film when I was maybe five years old – it was The Saragossa Manuscript [by Polish director Wojciech Hass].

I never thought of that as a horror film.
If you are five years old, it is! We used to live next to this old cinema, and I knew all the ladies who worked there. They would always let me in for free. The Saragossa Manuscript is very long, and about halfway through, my mother realised that it was really quite terrifying. She said: “We need to leave.” And I wouldn’t! Afterwards, she wrote a letter of complaint to the cinema, arguing that they should never have let me in. I couldn’t sleep for two nights after that, and on the third day, I sneaked back in and watched it again.

Then I discovered films by Roger Corman, all these Edgar Allan Poe adaptations. I don’t really like slashers or gore, although I do appreciate Italian giallos and anything by Mario Bava. They are very appetising visually, but they also make me laugh – they are so trashy! I love watching a film and just enjoying this gothic atmosphere.

It’s a genre that certainly leaves some room for exaggeration and imagination. You are not that restricted, one would assume?
These films are viewed as the poor orphans of cinema, but it’s the genre that has contributed the most to the technical advancement of film. Horror is always looking for new ways of expressing deep emotions, and fear is the deepest of them all. We should all be grateful for what it gave us. It has made mainstream filmmaking what it is today!

It’s interesting that you mentioned Corman before, as he was always encouraging people to do multiple jobs on set. On Eerie Fairy Tales, you were the director, writer and one of the producers, and you were responsible for the music, editing, and even the production and art design!
I don’t trust anyone. Well, maybe my technical crew – I certainly wouldn’t dream of shooting the film myself. It would take me more time to explain things to other people than to actually do them myself. I already have it all in my head, anyway. I think all filmmakers ultimately yearn for the time when they could just grab their friends and their Super 8 camera and yell: “Hey, let’s make a movie!” That’s the fun part of it. But then you grow older and start using other people’s money, which I personally don’t do – I always finance my projects myself. It gives me a certain liberty. I am in control, and I can enjoy it.

You also played three different characters in this movie, all larger than life.
Every horror movie benefits from some dark humour or grotesque elements. When we look back at some moment when we were really scared, it all becomes laughable in the end. I always use actors who can do drama as if they were doing a comedy. It’s important not to take ourselves too seriously, and sadly, Estonian cinema has always been considered very stoic and, let’s be honest, quite boring. We say that Estonian filmmakers never make their first movie – they always make their last, thinking it will be their testament, so they need to show everyone how “deep” they are. But why? Just add an ounce of self-irony and everything will be better.

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