Interview - Robert Crombie
Interview with Robert Crombie (Director and creator)
How a Briton does end up helping and directing a Ukrainian film?
Actually, it is an even odder story - I have now directed four feature films in the ex-Soviet Union; two in Ukraine, one in Lithuania, and one in St. Petersburg. And about two hundred and fifty TV commercials too. I blame it all on falling in love with a girl; a Russian girl quite unlike the cliché of Russian girls, one who wanted to live in Russia and insisted I learn Russian.
The Good Soldier Shweik was my idea and my script. I was a partner in the Ukrainian production company Yalta-Film at the time. I started the project, and I tried to hand it over to one animation director and then to another but the less said about both of them the better. So I ended up finishing the film as best as I could. I hope it's not too shoddy!
How does the idea come from to do a version of the famous character of Soldier Shweik?
I've always loved Jaroslav Hasek's book. It's a book that's dangerous to read on a train, because you burst out laughing, people stare at you and think you're a nutcase. I tried to turn the book into a play at university but only succeeded into turning it into a cartoon many years later. It seems to me that the original book still has many powerful things to say about power and war - hopefully the film does too.
Do you consider this is a kid's film or its target is a more adult public?
I think it's a film for "adults and other children", or for "children and other adults". It's not a film for six year olds. But I think ten year olds and upwards will watch it with real pleasure. And hopefully adults will too. It's a comedy for serious people and a serious film for people who like to laugh.
What message did you want to put across with The Good Soldier Shweik?
To state the obvious - I don't believe that the organized hurling of large and small bits of metal at other people is a very good idea! Also I believe that humour is a great anarchist and our modern world needs a lot more humour and a lot fewer ridiculous rules. I'm sure Jaroslav Hasek would agree with this.
What do you think are the main differences between Eastern Europe animation and British?
There was a very famous school of Soviet animation in the old days. It was very different from Western animation, both in its artistic style and in the type of stories it told. However, that was then; I believe that national differences in animation styles are becoming less marked every year, as modern technology has a kind of "unifying" and "standardizing" effect on most commercial animation.
Are you involved in any animation projects at the moment? Can you tell us something about it?
No, I'm working on two live-action features - Cuba Libre and Average Mean. Live-action film-making is my "day job", not animation although I would really like to make another animated feature. So I hope I do get the chance one day! But the gods of cinema are capricious and require a lot of blood sacrifice!