Interview - Juraj Krasnohorský

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Tigers in the city

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Interview with Juraj Krasnohorský (Director, co-scriptwriter and producer)

How did you come up with the idea of the film?
The original idea came from Lucia Siposova, who eventually became co-scriptwriter and co-producer of Tigers in the City. Originally an actress, she had a taste for writing short novels and this was her second script that I read. I liked the characters and the kind of Bratislava, my home city, which it was describing. It was that spirit of the city that attracted me to start working on the film, the Bratislava that I remembered from childhood and that I knew from stories, a city with a multicultural and multilingual past in the heart of Europe, a little bit absurd in its humor, architecture and people.

What can the viewers from other parts of the world identify as pure Slovakian in Tigers in the City?
I lived for half of my life, from 14 to 28 years, in Geneva, Bilbao and Paris. I came back to Bratislava to make this film, precisely because of the color and the spirit of the city that is unique for me. Also the French cameraman André Bonzel understood the humor of the city and managed to shoot it so well. More than pure Slovakian I like to think of it as Central European – the self-ironic tragic humor of the people and the places. That irony and humor is as well in the architecture (the building of the Slovak radio is a reversed pyramid!) and in the music of the film. The music is not only Slovak, it is very closely linked with Bratislava and it covers the whole 20th century. Each song defines a different generation of the city. The story itself is simple, it is about a shy guy, or more precisely his soul, who is desperately trying to find a matching soul. But this story is set on a background of a city that most people abroad don't know, and which for me is totally unique.

And what can they expect of the Tigers in the City? What's original in it and why shouldn't they miss it?
Tigers in the City is about how we (the people who worked on the film) see Bratislava and ourselves. It is about the challenges of becoming adult at the age of 30, about finding the one right person to spend the life with. It is about how our generation sees the world and our place in it in 2010's. Viewers should expect to see a city and its characters, that they have probably never seen before, since there are not many films or images in general that travel abroad from Slovakia. And if there are, it is very rarely a colorful comedy as Tigers in the City. With attention on the style, the colors, showing the city that we love as we see it. Both Lucia and I lived for a long time abroad, in the largests metropolis of the world (NY, Paris, Buenos Aires). Still Bratislava has something unique and original and that is what we share in this film.

How challenging was to make the film, taking into account it's your first feature?
Making this film was the most challenging thing in my life so far.  We made it in a time when state support for films in Slovakia was very weak and reserved for a few experienced producers. We decided not to work with any of them, because we wanted a clean slate. At the beginning there were three of us, Lucia Siposova, Henrieta Cvangova (producer) and me. With Henrieta we founded a company called Artichoke, together with Lucia we convinced some people to believe in our project and give us money and we shot the film. Today it happens more and more, but as far as I know we were the first at that time to use private funding. Then we convinced the Slovak Audiovisual Fund to help us with the other half of the budget and we finished the film.

And why is Badger portrayed by Kristina Tothova with a male voiceover?
We made this choice quite late in the writing, in the last draft. We understood that what we were writing is actually a story of a soul trying to find his matching soul. It is a widely known idea that everybody is composed of partially feminine and partially masculine character qualities. Rudolf Badger, our main character, is a man, with a feminine soul. That's why it is hard for him, what for other men is so easy – like for his friend Hyena, who is successful with women. In the film we see Rudolf Badger's soul, but we hear his true masculine voice. We don't know what he looks like, it's not important. It's the soul that counts. Kristina was a perfect choice for this part, because of her ethereal, slightly "from another world and time" look. It is original, but not that much.

As a filmmaker, what's your perspective on Slovakian cinema industry compared to the rest of Europe?
This is a question I'm trying to answer since a while and I still don't have a definite answer. My main goal as a director, but also as a producer for other Slovak filmmakers is to make films for the European public. That's the toughest part for us, to get our film beyond our borders. I often ask my friends and colleagues abroad, what they would expect from a Slovak film, what is the visual imagination when I say "Slovakia". Like there is an image when I say Spain or France. I think that one of the problems is that people outside Slovakia have only a little knowledge about our country. They don't really know if it looks more like Romania or more like Germany. And when I ask about a theme that would be interesting for them, what would they as foreigners be interested in, most often they reply it's the communism. So even though we are 23 years away from communism, it is still a very strong image for people abroad. That is basically what still defines Slovakia as a country. Of course this slowly changes, people travel and so on, but I'm talking about a general mind image of a country in people's minds. 

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