Monday, 18 July 2011

Interview: Alexander Rogozhkin talks about ‘Peregon’ (Transit)

Nationality: Russian. Born: Leningrad, 3 October 1949. Education: graduated in History from Leningrad State University, 1972; graduated from Director's Department at VGIK, 1982. Career: designer for Leningrad television, 1971–72; designer at Lenfilm, 1974–77; clip-maker for advertising, 1980–84; author of the very popular Russian television series Cops. Awards: Nika Prize, Russian Academy of Cinematography, for best director, 1995. ... more>>

Interview:

Peregon (Transit) is the new film from prolific Russian writer-director Alexander Rogozhkin, which was presented In Competition at this year’s edition of the Karlovy Vary Film Festival. Several of his past films have screened there, including Zhizn Idiotom (Life with an Idiot) and the Chechen war drama Blokpost (Check Point), for which he won the Best Director Prize in 1998. Peregon is a story set on a secret military transit base in the remote Chukotka region, where planes from allied forces came in from Alaska, including quite a few with female pilots, which of course attracted the attention of the mostly male Russian crew at the base. Boyd van Hoeij, the editor of europeanfilms.net, met with Peregon’s director during the festival.

Where did the original idea for Peregon come from?
The idea came to me twenty years ago, but I thought I would do it differently. There were three ways used by the US to aid Russia at the time [during WWII]: through Persia, via the North and through Chucotka, though the Chucotka connection was completely secret, and the first publications about it only appeared at the beginning of the 1990s. I already had a script about this time and these people, but since it would probably have been impossible to shoot it [on location] in Persia, I changed the setting to Chucotka.

Are the characters complete fictional creations or did you model some of your characters on stories from actual people who worked at such transit bases in WWII?
I read a lot about the subject, but the characters are purely fictional. What surprised me when I was working on the script and doing research in the archives was that the people who worked at the military bases were very young; they were born in 1925 or 1927. In that time, the people who would participate in normal life were killed or hurt in the war. Kurt Vonnegut said of the First World War generation that the war had made them four centimetres shorter...

How did you decide on the structure of the film, which offers a panoramic view of many different characters?
The decision was quite easy, because I love novels and novelists from the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, such as Tolstoy, Faulkner, Updike and Dostoyevsky. In fact, I would call my film a “film novel”. Tom Woolfe, writing about Faulkner, said that the story is like a postage stamp: it is not the story that is important, but the inner life of the characters. I was very happy to be able to write about them, and I wrote the film as if it were a novel. The producers hate it, because they always want something shorter and when they translated the script in English, it became even longer: almost twice as long as in Russian! The film is a bit longer than originally planned, though. If I were more talented the film would have been shorter! [Laughs.] ... more>>

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