This was my debut feature-film. It was 2004 and I was making music videos for Splin, Bi-2, Nogu Svelo and ads for Pepsi, IKEA, LG, Mitsubishi, Mail.ru… I made videos for pretty much everyone.
- I DIDN'T YET KNOW WHEN I WOULD MAKE MY FIRST FILM OR WHAT IT WOULD BE ABOUT, BUT I DID KNOW THAT IT WOULDN'T BE ANYTHING LIKE MY MUSIC VIDEOS OR ADS.
We know how films made by music video makers turn out: no realistic atmosphere, poor drama and bad acting. I was searching for material which wouldn't have the right aesthetics for music videos. Something far from the culture of MTV and modern metropolises. My cinematographer friend Maxim Trapo called me to say that he was set to work on a film in Belarus based on Ales Adamovich's latest book, "Mute". A war film, a grim story of the Nazi occupation. The producer Oleg Urushev was looking for a director and Maxim introduced me to him. The producer spoke to me, watched my music videos and then (incredibly) said yes. We worked hard on the screenplay. Maxim Trapo and I wrote it together with the Belorussian author Vladimir Stepanenko. We didn't have much time so we went about the filming like this – I went to Minsk, put a crew together, spent the first half of every day preparing the film shoot – costumes, props, casting. Then in the evenings the three of us would sit in Café London on Independence Avenue and discuss the screenplay. I showed them my new work, Maxim and Vladimir gave their comments and Vladimir also translated everything into Belorussian. We sent the rest of the dialogues to be translated into German. It took us the month of August to finish the screenplay and setting up the crew. The casting took place in parallel. For the role of Polina I originally wanted to choose a young actress from Minsk so that her native language would be Belorussian. But after the auditions, we chose a Russian VGIK student, Svetlana Ivanova. Now a famous star, this was her first role. There were also many aspirants for role of Franz. Four German actors flew to Minsk even for the final auditions. I didn't go for the typical "blond Aryan brute", but chose the charismatic, deep-thinkier Adrian Topol. In fact, there was "an ideal Nazi aryan", handsome and strong among the frontrunners and I was very tempted to choose that actor. But I thought that this cliché would be effective for the first five minutes, but no more. We'd have the image, but not the man.
- AND WE SET OFF. YOUNG AND HARDWORKING IN THE COLD AUTUMN AND WINTER OF 2004 ON THE BELORUSSIAN LAND, STILL REDOLENT OF PAIN AND BODIES.
We even filmed in the places where these grim events had taken place. Literally, on the bones of the people involved. Maybe all this contributed to what became the film "Franz+Polina".