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Giedrius Zubavičius film "Flowers" trailer.



Film director Giedrius Zubaviсius gives interview to Dr. Nerijus Milerius – philosopher and associate professor at the Department of Philosophy of Vilnius University in Lithuania.


You are not a newcomer to cinema, but this is your first film. So I, as usual, am eager to ask you about your first one – actually, your debut. For it is like a metaphysical, almost sacralized theme – the beginning, or a certain first time ... So what is your own assessment of this work of yours, which is still the first?

What do think about this work of mine?

Well, perhaps about the very beginning, the beginnings and this very impulse. Do you seem to feel this work comes from the debut pulse? Or do you feel you are already a very mature person, who only debuted later, coincidentally?

You are right – this is maturity, and certainly not the beginning of life. According to Dante, this may not even be the midway. Actually, it’s been more than midway now, for I am as old as forty.

Midway upon the journey of our life, I found myself within a forest dark…
Do you mean this?

Literary historians, who studied the writer’s notes, estimated that here, he refers to the age of thirty-five, so I did intend to say that it is more than midway (smiles). But yes, really – I was at complete ground zero... And I consciously wanted to afford the ease of starting by creating a very simple plot, a simple dramatic story. And in the end, it was especially amazing. However, having made the film, now I look at things in a new way. For first of all, then I went through some terribly intense years, which has opened up a lot of things to me, just like in a fairy tale.

You proper are the film’s screenwriter and director. And in fact, this is another fundamental topic. What is the relationship between, say, the word and the verbal concept, and the final image as their realization?

First of all, there are a few things. The first is a practical thing, of when I wrote the script and those dramaturgic pieces of it, which were meant to be bearing, or central, that is to say, emotionally strongest on paper ... After editing the film, they did not work at all, and appeared to be emotionally dysfunctional ... That was my first new experience – that the screenwriter does not have to be the director. It was like a test for myself, for I am also a director who uses views to embody the things that are written. I passed this exam on my own, because of the film language, which requires from the director to know what it means – a close-up, a close plan. But it was the test for myself, first of all – what does the solution, when it’s moved up from the script, say, in the sense of cinema grammar? Why is the camera moving on the track now? I have answered to myself that I can be a director, for I have been a screenwriter since quite long time ago ...

However, as a cinema theorist, I am actually interested in that. And indeed, what you’ve just said has only confirmed my belief in that the written text cannot be literally translated into image: that it is some specific type of translation, which is always indirect. For example, if the text included some of the most intense pieces, they cannot be directly transferred to the text on their own. That requires some additional solutions and imagery.

You are absolutely right. And that is exactly why this debut is very important to me, because I do not have much time to learn. I do not have many opportunities to learn. I am fairly receptive. And in this sense, it requires conversion between what is written and what is being shown. First and foremost, you have to visualize the things that you want to say.

There are many kinds of strategies for that: for example, one of these strategies – which are obviously and especially related to purportedly commercially successful cinema – is that they are in constant search for those outstanding storylines. And we know that, for example, the entire Hollywood industry works like this: if in reality, there appears that kind of unique story, they immediately acquire the copyright rights to that story, and then they are continuously making its adaptations. In case if reality actually does not offer any of such stories, then they sort of construct them. We do indeed remember such success-doomed films as Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park”, or something else like that. After all, that is an absolutely fantastical fictional story ... Still, after watching your film, I would not say it unfolds a completely routine story – but I wouldn’t say that it makes a completely fantastical one, either. In your opinion, what should the screenplay be like? Does it necessarily have to be fundamentally extraordinary? Or can we talk about a kind of essential, most fundamental things, or about the people who are in the natural course of their living?

If you ask me about the way I see my own place in this context, that is, in the creation of the story and the way I ... Your question is broader, the one I’d like to answer more fully. So, it depends primarily on the ...
Because I have thought the same thing: that the search for those extraordinary storylines has extremely impoverished the discovery of storylines. The best example of this is the American film culture: once it did tell those amazing stories, I mean, in the viewers’ eyes – those miraculous stories. And when it was time to seek extraordinary stories (because those ones played out quite soon), what was left to the scriptwriters? After all, they had to earn their bread, so then they had to pick their noses for a long while (sorry for such a vulgar remark) to come up with something outstanding. That is ridiculous. I have seen that tiny model repeatedly at screenwriting courses, as screenwriters wear out those stories by tormenting them. This is sad and pathetic. And I am very happy that God has given me the capability of creating original stories without imitating them, and without being tormented at those stories. Another thing is, those stories are difficult to give birth to. At least, in prehistory, from experiencing the modes of life that are unavoidable in drama – for the screenwriter in cinema, just like the playwright, is a doomed person. Anyway, this is the divide between the industry’s requirement to develop an interesting story and the other thing – the living out of this story in a simple manner... When a miracle comes to you without your expectation. Europeans are less likely than Americans to create crafty stories. Or at least those Europeans who are still here. Here is the film culture divide.

After seeing your movie or reading its synopsys or abstract, one can really present it as to look like some kind of a unique story: a boy, a teenager, a flower seller, his house with his parents and beloved cat burns down, and one can make an assumption – just an assumption – that it’s him who set fire to the house. One could write it all down as an extraordinary story, although it is not shown as some kind of action movie. So, what was most important for you in this case? Were those certain experiences, or were those the actions derived from the experience? Because, without a doubt, this is not an action movie?
No, in no way. Although actually, after I wrote the script, the movie could be filmed in ten different forms, that same storyline: these would be my own stylistic solutions. And even the same synopsys ... That is why the absolutization, without going deeper into the fact that the script is more important than any other thing ... It is not completely so clear and so simple, this story of mine, as you have noticed, though it is simple and easy-going. But in reality, it has many fundamental events, which I tried to tell in a relatively short length. It has very few dramatic events essentially – one, two, or three ...
Can we say, then, that you as if join the so-called poetic cinematic tradition? Or is it a completely different matter? Are we here to deal with a completely different terms and different naming?

Recently I have often been thinking about Pasolini and what he meant by that poetic cinema. And it seems to me that it is this experience, the practical realization of the film, helped me explain something in Pasolini’s semantics and in looking for cinema semiotics. Basically, poetic cinema is not something that is straightforwardly understood as visual figurative film, which seems to be based on image. This is, in my opinion, a complete simplification of what Pasolini once wrote: he wrote about that category of poetic cinema, which is a term he introduced within the context where, basically, it means versification: he understands what versification is, and what versification is in the context of grammar. I have read a lot of poetry by Pasolini and seen all of his movies, and now I understand what he meant by that. Basically, poetic cinema is the one that, no doubt, is based on image, but image as a grammatical category: image as an object, which is composed of components of grammar, for versification proper is different. It makes up a variety of rhythms, rhymes, and there is also the fact that a person writes even by breaking the traditional versification. The same Pasolini or Ezra Pound remain, first of all, within the context of meta-grammar. Even without placing a comma, by his structural, say, decisions, he does respect them, and speaks in a smooth manner. In this sense, in the fundamental sense – without a doubt, this is my encounter with the fact that cinema is a poetic category: poetic cinema is visual.
This is the montage, the close-up with distance. Or, nevertheless, for showing the overall plan, I use the rails. Or, instead of showing just a walking protagonist, the camera on rails is moving at the same speed that the the protagonist is walking. All of these are, of course, issues of grammar, but poetic grammar allows us to be brave and make full use of cinematic possibilities.         

I see. Pasolini, then, very consciously opposed the poetic cinema, the concept of poetic theater concept, to cinema as prose, which apparently includes more purely random shooting than a documentary, without using all of the specific cinematic complexities. But for Lithuanian context, that kind of poetic cinema, this very notion, or this expression, often has quite a negative meaning. It is often said that the Lithuanians do not know anymore how to tell these very, very simple stories in film. So, instead of telling these simple stories, they hide themselves behind images that supposedly should bear those poetic meanings. And so, it is very common in Lithuanian film to be very similar to a set of pictures. I mean, these are delightful works by camera operators, and in fact, they can be said to have excellent mesoscenes, but it looks like one image is difficult to “cling” to the other, so the rhythm is disturbed or absent, generally speaking.

It is an interesting thing. A poet who is not, in fact, a poet, but someone who is trying to work with words and the form, which gives him or her freedom, and even ignorance, in the literary sense. This is what is called poetic cinema very often. And in fact, in the pasolinian sense, poetic cinema is something that raises huge requirements for itself, in fact. And what we see in the Lithuanian tradition, that kind of poetic cinema, it reveals a desire of setting easier goals for yourself. Because, certainly, it requires less spiritual effort – just to play with images, to give a free reign to the cameraman. Because very often, the cameraman in cinema industry – I have noticed that – is more talented than the director. This is a true phenomenon, in my opinion. And telling a story requires a lot more effort. It requires considerably more effort than telling a story, because the person says: "It is poetry, so I write as I want to." And I have read the same Ezra Pound: his poetry is a result of enormous concentration and discipline. I stress this – deep concentration and great discipline. Something that you can afford not to set as a task, being the author of the so-called poetic film – just to show it in images. But if a person decides to keep wanting and keep creating, to set meta-poetic goals for himself or herself – then it becomes all the more difficult, no doubt about it. It is in this sense that this film of mine – a pity that in a net sense, it is more poetic than meta-poetic.

I see. When it comes to the difference between poetry and prose, we are talking about the way the film is constructed: I mean poetry and prose in the pasolinian sense. But here, we can talk about certain content. Although the talk is quite difficult, since in your movie, the main characters are teenagers, and I think that they are the most dangerous subject. Why? Because it is the easiest thing to succumb to stereotypes, for as far as I remember movies about teenagers, they really are very much stereotyped. These stereotypes include particular problems at puberty, say – the protagonists
lose themselves into drinking, get involved in some hooligan groups, go through their first sexual experience, and so on, and so on ... And there are a lot of those stereotypical pivots ... So, my question is – why do you have teenagers in the center of the stereotypes, who consciously seem to “attract” many kinds of stereotypes? Was it only your own desire to wrestle with those very stereotypes and consciously try to avoid them?

I have chosen children for several reasons. First of all, for the moment when I decided to write myself the script exactly for the first film – a short one, because I’ve usually had the script for full-length projects in advance for some time now. So, fortunately or unfortunately, my attention stuck exactly to real characters – that is, to children, who, for many years, have been roaming the city (and those are still the same kids) and selling flowers. In this sense, it was a very risky choice – and a spontaneous one. And another thing is that I realized – I would learn more things working specifically with children, although it is very risky. As your own question shows, one can cheat and use multiple dramatic clichés, and they will tell the story. That is something I avoided, so there are very few social episodes. Especially about the main character, his social status, and social environment ... I spoke about his one and only short dialogue with his father. And I decided, in the film, because it is short – not long, I must emphasize –  to just be satisfied with this very story. Perhaps it was my mistake, because if I would have created two additional episodes, the film would be less poetic, and more prosaic – in a good sense, at least in terms of proportions. And yet – I don’t know, I just always wanted to employ children characters in my own dramaturgy, for they do tell something: they help me, personally, to convey something important. Yet, over the history of cinema, you and I can remember only a few impressive films with children.

I also was thinking about, say, Truffault’s “400 Blows” ...

Yes, and there are a few more ...

Well a few, in fact, of those one really does memorise…


…that one memorises because there are really not many of them, or some others randomly fall into in a particular genre which is, well, already films for children.

I did want that challenge. I took it up deliberately. So I don’t know whether it was, in fact, my own intention still to not use tricks, clichés, or hide behind the actors’ incompetence, and rely on the fact that I could not manage the actors – and that is why I failed or succeeded. However, in this sense, of course, it was my very conscious intention: in my first, debut movie, to get maximally prepared for the next film – already a full-length one.

One of my colleagues keeps telling me: “You see, when I come to somewhere with the camera (she is a video artist), immediately, something starts to happen." Of course, I smile when she says so, for it is her look that is so “polished” that she takes storylines from life in any case, but she does direct them in a sense. For she cannot see some, say, certain relationships between people, how the things are going on. But immediately, in her mind, there is certain film directing going on. Just so that her directorial material consists of certain characters, who actually might not be acting at that point. Now, I have remembered this when you said that the idea of the film was dictated to you by entirely realistic flower vendors. For the most part, they have played themselves in this film, haven’t they? So what does cinema – which, in this sense, directs the life proper – look like to?

I think cinema is never directing the life. At best, the author attempts to be directed by life in as talented manner as (s)he can. Similarly to the case of your friend the video artist, where, as soon as she comes into a certain space with her film camera, life helps her to tell something. This is only her own way of the creative, spiritual, human approach. But that life of hers keeps sliding. And when it comes to my kids, it’s basically a very primitive thing that has made me write this story. This is the inadequacy of the story. Here, children are selling flowers at night. A question rose in my mind, a simple human question: but where are their parents? Aren’t they scared that their child wanders about the streets in the middle of nowhere? If not this interest of a playwright, my personal concern of an observer – there would not have been this screenplay. Because if not this question, there is no story and no drama at all.

Does this mean that your film is very egoistic? It is your interest, or your piece of research. Why do I now say this word – research? Among us, the theorists and philosophers, there all kinds of skeptics who talk about artists. And what do artists often do nowadays? They present certain exhibitions or artistic actions – and they call them “research”. I don’t know, perhaps you have not noticed them…

No, I haven’t.

This happens – often, they present not the exhibition, but, for example, a certain work of art – a piece of research.

I haven’t captured those.

I mean, they attempt to emphasize that the artist, by using artistic tools, carries out a specific investigation. And then, what has to be assessed is not what (s)he presents, not only the quality of any work of art, but the very research material should be assessed.

Well, here again comes out the same trick as in the case of Lithuanian poetic cinema. Separating it from the poetic Lithuanian, separating it from the category used by Pasolini – that of poetic cinema.

But, you know, not always their piece of research is bad.

Far from it. I would not even condition that. It depends on the depth of the human research, and on his or her talent, and on what (s)he is investigating. Once again – on what is interesting to himself or herself. Because in this case, my egoism was the following: as far as I am very egoistic in life by the very making of this film. The artist cannot be unselfish: (s)he shocks a lot of people, so that they would help himself or herself have out something that interests him or her.

Which means, in fact, that then, you would acknowledge that your work of art is similar to your personal research by using the artistic means of cinema?

In this sense – yes, it does. But I do not like the research, so I’d like to try and find another word spontaneously. It would not even be a piece of research – one needs to research on life. Not research, because for me, research eliminates one of the dimensions – that is, the excitement. Because I looked at those children with excitement. I have experienced the same childhood, only a different point of view. And I did love the children in any case, within this context. Flowers, the night ... – if I would write a haiku about that... Flowers, the night, the waiting, more waiting ... An explanatory in this category is the parents, who might not be waiting. Here, I am talking about semantics. And in this haiku line – it would make more than a triplet – I would put down a few things. So it would not be a piece of research, but I’ve been thinking, what would be a more accurate word here.

Well, I can see that you are not a scientist.

I am not a scientist.

But what I actually mean here is that if you think that the word “research” cannot have passion and emotion, you are very wrong.

It is inevitable. All pieces of research contain some passion ...

The best research is always very passionate and emotional.

I have no doubt, no doubt. Perhaps I just haven’t managed your question fully.
Then, at this point, I will rely on your knowledge that for sure, it is research (laughs).

But what if we could put it this way: there are two different, for example, concepts of experiment: the Renaissance one and the contemporary one. In the case of this Renaissance one, about the whole time of the procedure, the experimenter proper is involved in the experiment. But in the contemporary experiment, the experimenter already distances himself or herself from the experiment. Which  leads us to the following assumption: that your experiment is that of the Renaissance type.

Thank you for this naming, because I’ve been listening to your talking and I’ve thought that I probably am the Renaissance one. There is that correspondence between two Italian poets and writers that has sunk into my mind: the one between Emilio Gadda and the other one, now I cannot remember the name. And Gaddo writes to his friend: “How painful it is that once, the object of art was to create beauty, and now, its object is self-expression, to express oneself.” He says: “We are suffering poverty at every given moment”. For in the category, one needs to create beauty, but here, beauty is already a separate and necessary addition to that category. It is very difficult and subtilizing your work, and the things you want to do. For to express oneself there is often the egocentricity, in those frequent pieces of research. I think, Nerijus, that it’s just that the wonderful sociological research is scarce.

No, but sociology – yes, you’ve taken such a statistical one.

That is why I will react aggressively to a statistical piece of research, because there is little talent in it.

It is obvious: statistics should not have passion in it.

Contemporary, or modern art very often eliminates something that used to be its advantage, or the elementary requirements. Which means – to speak nobly, beautifully, and with responsibility. In this sense, I am a classical artist. And I’ll even tell you now, Nerijus, in returning to my movie ... I have invited the film operator who was a total classic in the true sense – Fabio Zamarion. Because he has been creating by that classic approach, curiously, he has worked with the modernists of cinema: Coppola, Bertolucci, Tornatore, Emanuele Crialese, and other masters. And I realized that this is my own aesthetic key. My research is going on through his eyehole, or his eye, because I have seen the movie that he has shot.

Here, you’ve dropped me a certain way of provoking yourself. Because you said that it happens very often that the operator is significantly stronger than the director. Aren’t you afraid that this is the case of your film, too?

Certainly ... He is much stronger than me. But I was using another word, Nerijus. I said – much more talented. Not stronger. In terms of talent – it is the issue only between God and me, this is a private matter between us two. We are of the same spiritual design and perhaps of a similar talent fineness. But this does not mean that we are equivalent at this point. For twenty-five years, he has been seeing the world through his instrument. I, as a screenwriter, have been seeing the world through my instrument only for a few years – if we sum up my writing and non-writing stages. And he is much stronger than me, as long as he has stopped tossing about. And in this sense, of course, he is stronger. That was my decision – at any price, to start my first movie with someone who, perhaps, can use three minutes to explain me that a story is taking place, the narrative techniques are varied, the camera moves, the camera stands, the camera monitors, the camera delves. At that point, I had to have such a talented person. And such a grand one. And thank God it happened. In the final result, it is not visible. It is beyond my power to make an adequate result, such as that the operator can. But both of us have agreed on one thing, even without speaking: this little film is modest. But there were a couple of things that made him happy. They were some of my discoveries. Of course, he loved the story. It’s just a pity that the script was mutilated while we were shooting, and I tried to mitigate that mutilation when I was editing.

Then, in the end, can we say that the film itself is a kind of experiment, whose result you could not foresee before shooting it?

Absolutely. I have behaved absolutely risky and unacceptably. Thank God I was the producer, because if another producer was working at it, it would be disrespectful to him and, say, to his trust in me. I’ve decided to risk totally, to risk completely ...  Because here, it’s the issue of my own nature: without doubt, both an absolute experiment, and a very serious one. And how much honest it is – I am not sure of that. I am not even sure whether here, I was honest at all moments in doing so, as I created a difficult situation for many people. I was not ready for this film, but, paradoxically, now I am much stronger in preparation for my next film.

Thank you, Giedrius.

Thank you too.




Film characters are children who sell flowers in various places in Vilnius. One child sells flowers next to a cemetery. Later on that kid removes sold flowers from graves and re-sells. Others offer to buy flowers walking along the city streets, entering bars, cafés and nightclubs. The main film character retains his/her parents from the earned money. All of these children are friends. They do not have normal childhood. Their lives change when the main character's parents die in a fire…













The film premiered in competition for international film festivals:

Tampere (Finland),

Luebec (Germany),

Evora (Portugal),

Molodist tarptautinis kino festivalis Kijeve (Ukraine),

Bruege (Belgium),

Bhopal (India).

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