Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Interview with Jan Cvitkovic

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

INTERVIEW WITH JAN CVITKOVIC,
WRITER-DIRECTOR OF BREAD AND MILK

Why did Bread and Milk end up being 68 minutes long?
The film was initially supposed to be a short. I believe in long and intensive preparations before shooting, including a lot of improvisations, so we discovered many new situations and relations between the characters, and the film started to expand before we started shooting. At a certain point I decided that I would not think about the length of the film at all, and just make the film that I wanted to make.

And why black and white?
Every film story needs a suitable visual form. We did tests before shooting. The best result was when shooting on colour 16mm film and then blowing it up on 35mm black and white film. So we got an ugly, non-contrast, more grey and white, than black and white: perfect picture for that kind of story. Ugly, tough and poetic at the same time.

How comic do you consider Bread and Milk – and how political?
In certain points it’s very comic. In other points, it’s very tragic. Its lifelike. Its not so much political, its just an ironic take on the general situation in Slovenia and the former Yugoslavia.

What is your connection with Tolmin? How did you find the Tavern?
I spent my youth in Tolmin, mostly in the Taverna.

How did the locals feel about the film?
Most of the film characters in the bar were the locals. They know that this is their reality. The town has 4000 people. There were 3500 tickets sold for Bread and Milk. Only babies and tetraplegics stayed at home.

Did you write the graffiti on the wall yourself (If this town is Eden, then the Tavern is the apple) or was it already there?
The graffiti was already there – yes, the locals have their special sense of humor as well.

You are well known as a vocal supporter of the Slovenian national football team. What is your view of the team, now that they’ve qualified for their first World Cup? Do you like any British football teams?
The Slovenian football team announces to the world a new Slovenian mentality: free, unbreakable and, above all, with sense of humor. Mladen Rudonja (who scored the most important goal against Romania) was voted the best Slovene player ever. People in England probably don’t know him, but he’s a pure attacker, though in all his previous 53 matches for the national team didn’t score a single goal.

How can Rudonja be such a pure attacker if he didn’t score in 53 games?
Rudonja has a great sense of humor, that’s way he didn’t score for so long.Regarding British football, Im an Arsenal fan. I especially like Adams and Keown. They have style and they can be rude. Real Englishmen!

What do you think will happen in the World Cup?
Slovenia will make some big surprises. The final will be England vs Italy. The result will be made by penalty kicks. One of less known English players will be a hero.

What is your view of the Slovenian transvestite Eurovision affair?
Its great all part of the new Slovenian mentality, too. No more boring “blah blah blah – tra la la” motherfuckers.

How do you see the state of the film industry in Slovenia?
In a last few years, Slovene films are becoming better and better, getting prizes on the festivals all over the world. The sad thing is that the goverment, which is financing the film industry, doesn’t react in a proper way. They aren’t aware of the opportunities available to us at the moment, so we have a real contradiction: Slovene films have never been so succesful than now, but we’ve never been given such a small amount of money to keep going. Anyway, in the next 10 years, the Slovene film industry will be a small “boom” in Europe. I know what Im talking about – I know some extremely talented filmmakers and Ive read some excellent scripts.

Who are these extremely talented film-makers from Slovenia?
– Janez Burger (Idle Running, 1999, which has won around 20 international awards). Hes making a new film this year.
– Andrej Zumbergar (his experimental feature film Unrest is in post-production).
– Damjan Kozole (Pornofilm, 199?), He is shooting new film right now, an excellent script about people who smuggle refugees across the Slovene borders.
– Igor Sterk (Express-express, which was won around 20 international awards).
– Andrej Kosak (Outsider, 1996). His second film Headnoise is in postproduction).
These are all guys in their mid-thirties, and they’ll be followed by some younger talented filmmakers also.

Which directors do you like, or consider influences?
I prefer to talk about films rather than directors: Once Were Warriors (Tamahori), Raging Bull (Scorsese), Ko To Tamo Peva / Who Is Singing Over There?(Slobodan Sijan), The Time of the Gypsies (Kusturica), Stranger Than Paradise (Jarmusch), Seul Contre Tous / Alone Against Everybody (Caspar Noe), Wild at Heart (Lynch), Badlands (Malick), Return of the Idiot (Sasha Gedeon), anything by Aki Kaurismaki, Funny Games (Haneke)
I never was a film fan. Actually, I almost never go to the cinema. There are simply too many bad films going around, and its hard to find a good one. I learned to read at my very young age and since then my passion is literature, along with some other not so “arty” things. I was always translating words into pictures. That was my film school. And it was a good one.

What are these “not so arty” things are you into?
Let me have some secrets.

Why do you make films, rather than writing books, if literature is so much more important to you than the cinema?
I like to read books, but I don’t feel able (yet) to write one. I don’t like to watch films so much, but I like to make them… Why do I make films? It is the faith. When my mother was pregnant with me, she saw a Czech film with a young character, named Jan. She named me after him. In 1995 I was completely broke. I needed money. I heard about a contest for the best script for a short film. The award was about $1,500. Id never seen a script before in my life, and I won I said to myself, Cool! This is easy money. Then my friend Janez Burger came from the Czech Republic, where he studied film. We wrote the script for Idle Running and I also played a main role. The film was very successful and i was already poisoned by telling and discovering things via “moving pictures”.
When I make a film, I am a better person: more intuitive, thinking, tolerant, patient and sensitive than usual. I enjoy fascinating people with my ideas and making them feel it’s their idea, too. I enjoy seeing an individual giving more, than anyone expected from him. I enjoy connecting reality and fiction. Many locals and my friends were acting in Bread and Milk for very special reasons, that only i know. The process of filmmaking for me is an opportunity to observe myself and world, from a larger distance.

What project are you working on now?
I am writing a script for a feature film about a man who writes funeral speeches, and about his family and his friends.

Why do you admire Mike Tyson so much – and are you still a fan after his recent antics?
Mike Tyson is a symbol of my generation born in 1966. He is natural: extremely strong and extremely weak at the same time. Hes a man of momental inspiration, with immense charisma. I’ve read his interviews, and he’s also intelligent, Anyone who thinks that a boxer can be a world champion and have no brains, well, they don’t know much about boxing. Many people don’t like him now, but in 100 years time people will be talking only about one 20th century boxer – Mike Tyson. I’ll remain his fan, no matter what he does, because I understand him. He is an evil god. A Fire Horse.

Now read the review of Bread and Milk

7th March, 2002

by Neil Young