As a rule, directors work like this: an idea comes to mind, they write the screenplay and then look for the actors. By idea I mean the message or the plot. In this case the idea was an actor. I saw Vladimir Mishukov act in a film, a different film, and I was immediately enthralled by his human substance, if you can put it like that. Not his natural manner, nor his appearance, nor even his talent, but his substance. We know of actors who can act complex, intellectual roles, but unfortunately the key word here is "act". It's like they are aping a serious face. We can see that the actor is not on the same level as the character intellectually. With Vladimir it was different. I saw a person who not only existed as an actor on film, but who existed in real life. Then I met him, we became friends and I wanted to film him in any role possible, big or small.
- I NEEDED THIS KIND OF PERSON FOR MY FILM LIKE A POET NEEDS THE RIGHT KIND OF PAPER AND PENCIL TO WRITE THEIR POEMS.
Then in 2014 I was filming "A Film about Alexeev" and asked Vladimir to play a small role. The scene was New Year's Eve, 1971 and the character was arguing
with the protagonist about life, art and love. Those two minutes of Mishukov on screen gave the film the kind of atmosphere of heavenly cinematic gravity and realism which all directors dream of. Then two years passed. I went from one idea for my next film to another, but subconsciously I went for the one where Vladimir could play the main role. I finished writing the screenplay in the summer of 2016 and we started shooting. Of all my films, this one is probably my favorite. It speaks to the audience with the kind of quiet intonation which I always try to achieve when making a film.
- THE TASK AT HAND FOR THIS FILM WAS THIS: NOT TO SHOW WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THE MAIN CHARACTER, BUT TO SHOW WHAT WAS HAPPENING IN HIS HEAD.
Without any kind of explanation, voice-over or anything of that kind. Later I expanded the story and wrote a novella
based on the themes of the film. In the novella I went right into the protagonist's head, unraveled his thoughts and even brought things to a different ending. That's how the story of "Elephants" continued, after beginning from the impression of a person.