OLEG DORMANis a director of very special films, based on autobiographical monologues of remarkable people. His “Word-for-word”, the memoirs of Lilianna Lungina, shown on TV only after 10 years after creation, because of hurdles set by dull and short sighted television bureaucrats, was an unchallenged triumph.
On November 4, 2011 Dorman’s new film “Note” was released, telling the life story of the outstanding conductor Rudolf Barshai.
RM: Oleg, what is primary for you – idea or character?
O.D.: I would say, the character is vital. As Pascal put it, ‘people are only interested in people’. I can imagine and even name a few action films that neither touch nor excite viewers, as there is no one to sympathise with. Even if I had vague ideas, I would never know them before I would find or create a character.
RM: One journalist mentioned his “unswerving feeling of implication in someone else’s talent and happiness” after the “Note” opening night. Drawing the parallel between you and your character – do you feel happy about the films you create, or do you only see them as steps to something bigger?
O.D.: A gleam of happiness – and then dissatisfaction again.
RM: Some scenes show Rudolf Barshai sitting in a room with a big portrait of Charlie Chaplin on the wall. Did he specify why there was Chaplin?
O.D.: I asked him whether he likedcinematography and who exactly he liked. Not for the film – just out of curiosity. Barshai named people who were my favourites as well – Chaplin and Fellini. He added that cinematography would never reach the heights of literature, and I was not offended, as I also thought so. We tactfully omitted music. Films released in the middle of 20th century impressed Barshai a lot. But since 1977, when he had left the USSR, his life was completely devoted to work, and it seems like he never went to cinema after that.
RM: As Charlie Chaplin put it, “sense of humour helps us to overcome the ups and downs”. Is your unique sense of humour inherent, taken from your parents, or Woody Allen, or maybe by twists of fate?
O.D.: I cannot estimate my own sense of humour, because I do not separate my feelings from myself. I think that life is very funny indeed. For example, when a film director is speculating about his work in public. I call it a sense of humour when I feel fun – in this meaning, I have it – I laugh at many things. Neither from the height of my position, nor as a mockery, just fun.
RM: Did you enjoy your films’ premiÃ¨res? Is public recognition important or do you only care about a few people’s opinions?
O. D.: Oh I hate premiÃ¨res. I mean, I like celebrations, but I don’t enjoy being the central figure. I’m not a public person, I am wary of public people and this kind of emotion, as they are false and destructive. A human being lives alone and, if lucky, shares his existence with a few dear people. No one is supposed to be in a crowd. It never did any good, just causes evil and trouble. Two people is maximum for a talk. If I was God, I would edit a special commandment – no gathering of more than two! Even a conversation of three people is not entirely right, as you cannot speak equally, you are already a crowd. A crowd is more than a head count; it is a state of mind. The more people – the less individual responsibility.
RM: The characters in your movies – Ranevskaya, Agranovich, Lungina, Barshai. Do you think that great personalities could be born these days? Can such beauty of the inner world appear without the ordeals the 20th century exposed them to?
O.D.: I would say yes, as the modern problems and temptations are also hard – for example, big money examination is no less severe, important and cruel for modern Russians, as those of the past. Or the instant availability of information, a chance to listen to desirable music easily, opportunity not to be apart – with the help of mobile phones and computers. These are dangerous examinations, never known to mankind before. There is always a way to become a personality. And it always seems that people were much better in the past. The same feeling my older friends possessed.
RM: What can you say about music in your life? Is there more of it after “Note”?
O.D.: Not more, not less – I’ve always loved music. I agree with Barshai that Mahler is something every human being should hear one day.
RM: Does an artist need a muse?
O.D.: All men have been thinking of that. I wonder what a woman would say, if she is engaged in creativity? Goethe crowned this discussion in the last line of “Faust”: “the Eternal Femininedraws us on”. This formulation is exhaustive on what drives humanity. Maybe not only for men… Sometimes this eternal feminine has an actual form, sometimes it doesn’t.
RM: If your son decides to become a film director, will you support him?
O.D.: I learned from “Sex and the City” that if a gentile wants to turn to Judaism, a rabbi shuts the door on him three times. A character in the TV series went to a rabbi three times and he refused to speak to her, and finally it turns out to be a test rather than rudeness – if you go for a fourth time, it means you can try.
I think only those, who cannot live without it, should make films, write books or music. But you never know this about yourself before, let alone about another person. So I would say “don’t” to my son three and four times. If he insists he will be right. But if he believes me and obeys, my rightness will be proved.
RM: Will we have a chance to see “Note” before the TV premiere?
O.D.: In Moscow, in the Central House of Litterateurs (Bolshaya Nikitskaya 53) on December 14 – the day of Decembrist uprising.
RM: If Oleg Dorman made a film about Oleg Dorman, what would be the title?
O.D.: Every film you make is about your life, issues important to you, or excitement you need to share. But the more you do it, the less individual one’s Ego is left. Just like in Bergman’s Fanny Och Alexander – Mysterious Ishmael says to the boy: “Are you sure we are two different people? Maybe we are one, and we flow through each other?”
The more films I make – the stronger my feeling that my Ego is a minor part of this process, as it diffuses. The less of it – the broader your horizons are. That is great.