Dovlatov press conference with director Alexey German Jr, Milan Marić and Danila Kozlovsky
Dovlatov tells the story of the best and brightest writers in 70s Leningrad, crushed by the oppressive censorship laws and forced into exile to prosper. Director Alexey German Jr and his incredible cast discussed the film’s treatment of the period and the themes of freedom of expression at the Berlinale press conference.
What was your main motivation in producing a film on this tortured writer?
Alexey German Jr: Our motivation for this film was these fantastic people. Brodsky, Dovlatov who were not dissidents, they just wanted to do their work and they were thrown out of the country. Now there are statues for them. So why were they thrown out of the country if they only apologise later? But Russia is no longer the Soviet Union. I can remember how my father [director Alexey German] used to hide copies of his films under the bed so they wouldn’t get destroyed. I admire that period, I admire those people because they would not be bent or distorted, they walked tall. I’m a different kind of person. I think I would have been scared.
How has Russia’s stance on art changed since Dovlatov’s time?
AGJ: Our film is not banned, we had all the freedom to make it. We had no censorship and that is the truth. I think there are ideas of Russia that depict it like a second North Korea. No it isn’t. Our film talks about what could happen. We say this is inadmissible, to destroy talent and lives. It’s not acceptable to not allow an artist to be an artist. There are many examples.
What is the main challenge facing artists today?
AGJ: It’s always difficult to remain faithful to yourself because money is another form of censorship. Just imagine how difficult it was for the producers to come up with the money for a film about a writer – not a superhero, not an athletic event, not a war. We were lucky because we had so many great producers. Without them we could not have made this film. But participating in the Berlinale also helped us a great deal to make this film because three years ago we showed our film Under Electric Clouds, and we understood [that] the fact that we were here and that our film was shown here gave us this ability to produce this film. If we had not been at the Berlinale, it would have been extremely difficult to produce Dovlatov.
What were the main challenges in preparing for these roles as actors?
Milan Marić: This is a very sensitive theme, the theme of freedom, love, opportunities or lack thereof, desires and unfulfilled desires. This struggle within oneself and the attempt to observe ethics and reconcile that with your own very difficult realities. It was a huge challenge on very different levels, you know that yourself. You have to get used to the role; you have to immerse yourself in the Russian soul. Serbia is not in the north, it’s a very different country. I would like to thank everyone who had a lot of understanding and bore with me and did everything they could to make my stay more comfortable. A second challenge was of course learning Russian because I couldn’t speak one word of it before this project.
Danila Kozlovsky: The challenge I had was to understand the times; it’s one thing if we read about the 70s in books or see it in films or talk to people about it but if you are the one who has to explain that to other people and make it as authentic as possible, you really shed your modern skin.
Dovlatov does not have a UK release date yet. Read our review here.
Read more reviews and interviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival 2018.