Zrinko Ogresta • Director of A Blue Flower

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– The Croatian director tells us about his film and how he portrays the lack of emotional displays in the Balkans

This article is available in French.

Croatian filmmaker Zrinko Ogresta, including the eighth feature film, A blue flower [+lire aussi :
bande-annonce
interview : Zrinko Ogresta
fiche film
]
, had its world premiere at the Moscow International Film Festival and is currently showing in the Official Selection of the Palić European Film Festival, talks about the femininity of the film and the difficulty expressing feelings in the Balkans.

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A blue flower depicts three women, representing three different generations. How is it that a male director decided to make such a female-centric film?
The feminine side in me is very strong and this is not the first time that I say it in a film. When I say feminine side, I am referring to emotions and my understanding that one should not refrain from expressing feelings. My previous job, On another side [+lire aussi :
critique
bande-annonce
interview : Zrinko Ogresta
fiche film
]
, also portrays a complex female protagonist. I realize now that most of my work so far has dealt with women as the central characters, but my next film, if there is one, will focus on a male subject.

The plot zooms in on the relationships between a grandmother, a mother and a daughter and what is striking is that their way of communicating is mostly about being tough on each other.
This is a very common pattern of behavior in our Balkan region. In fact, that was my starting point, the reason I wanted to do A blue flower. Important things are never said out loud here. Genuine affection is only expressed verbally in the film’s final episode, which unfolds in the protagonist’s imagination. Mother and daughter never say “I love you” although they obviously care about each other a lot.

What is your explanation for this?
Patriarchy, which prevails in the Balkans, probably has a lot to do with it. Which is not necessarily all negative. Nowadays it is very fashionable and popular to speak negatively about these typical implications coming from our region. And if one day I broached the subject of patriarchy in more depth, I would instead emphasize its positive sides such as family values, commitment and dedication to a single woman, responsibility to children. These virtues were born in patriarchal settings and they seem to disappear today.

But in A blue flower above all we see the negative results of patriarchal authoritarian behavior.
That’s why I made this final scene! In order to show, albeit in a spooky way, that warm feelings are there, even if they are not expressed.

The main character Mirjana seems doomed to be alone, her relations with men and relatives are not very good. What makes her so lonely?
It’s hard for me to answer, that’s how she is and I can’t explain why. This is one of my few movies based on someone else’s script – it’s written by Ivor Martinić, a very successful young contemporary Croatian playwright. He gave me the script and I immediately recognized myself in it.

The men in the film have secondary roles. They seem unnecessary in this female setup, and the episodic male characters are shown in a rather negative light.
I especially liked the way the male characters were treated in the script. Ivor decided to deal exclusively with female characters and only use the men as tools to move the narrative forward. Therefore, they appear only when absolutely necessary. However, even in these brief appearances, males are not just the function of someone else, their individualities are developed.

The story is not based on dynamics of action but rather on emotional frequencies and on the silence which says everything without words.
Your point is very correct. Eastern perception of A blue flowerwill tend to be overall closer to what I tried to imply, the film was very well received in Moscow, for example. Probably because, dare I say, audiences in Eastern Europe are more inclined to deeper, more thoughtful topics. I have not yet shown the film in the West but some have seen it and I see the difference in their interpretation: they are exhausted at the level of the plot.

How did you choose the actresses? For such a plot it is very important that they interact well with each other.
Of course, I started by choosing the actress to play the main character, Mirjana. And I decided to Vanja irić because I always try to promote new faces. Although she is in her forties, it is her first role in the cinema since she is a theater actress. But I’ve been following her career since she was a student and always knew I would work with her someday. Her selection resulted in the attachment of the other two actresses. As for the grandmother Violeta, in the scenario she was supposed to be older, octogenarian but I decided to rejuvenate the character and I chose Anja Šovagović-despot, so that the audience cannot predict the ending, and so that the character does not lose his authoritative gaze and his influence on Mirjana. The youngest actress, Harčević tea, is a student at the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Zagreb. I was going to the academy to spy on her and observe her movements and behavior without her knowing I was there, because I wanted an authentic contribution. After all, no director can be good without being a voyeur! (Laughs)

And the symbol of the blue flower? In Western romantic culture, it represents hope and beauty, but did you give it special meaning?
I didn’t want to give it any symbolic meaning a priori. I can’t explain her presence in the movie but come to think of it now, it represents beauty – something that I generally relate to women. This is why in the scene where she appears, Mirjana’s competitor offers her this flower.

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