18th ÉCU Film Festival 2023
The First Night
March 31, 2023
A tragicomedy based on the eponymous short story by Luigi Pirandello, which was first published in 1900. While the original story takes place in Sicily, the plot of this film adaptation is set in a contemporary Czech village. Due to various family interests, the young violinist Anička and the widowed, ageing gravedigger František are forced into an unwanted marriage by their relatives. We thus follow a story about loneliness, about love beyond the grave, but also about trying not to resent life and learning to move on, even though the loss of our loved ones still hurts.
Hi Silvia, it is a pleasure to talk with you, how has everything been going?
Thanks, it's a pleasure also for me. You know at the memento I’m really enjoying the moment that "The First Night" will be screened in Paris I still can’t believe it and at the same I’ve been writing a script for a new project. So the same doubts and hopes as I had when I was preparing "The Treasure" and "The First Night". If people will like it if I’m strong enough to do it if I want to sacrifice my personal life …
You had an amazing run with your debut short The Treasure - Poklad did you imagine you would get such a remarkable reaction to your film?
No, I didn’t I just wanted to shoot it because my mother was dying and I was in the middle of my PhD studies and everybody who studied the PhD knows it's a permanent frustration but then I discovered the short story by Alberto Moravia (My PhD theses was actually on Italian Neorealism in the literature and in the film) so I just wanted to do something not to drive crazy so I started my most secret dream in my life to become a filmmaker. And my poor mother didn't see either the premiere she had died two weeks before so I told myself I should try the luck and I sent it to few festivals because of her.
What did it mean to you to win so many awards for Poklad - The Treasure?
The awards are not so important even if of course Im very happy about it but the most important thing is that I had the opportunity to show it all over the world .
The First Night is part of the 18th ÉCU Film Festival 2023 in the European Dramatic Shorts section, how does it feel to be part of such an incredible line-up of films?
As I said you cant imagine how I am happy and honoured I am not only for me but for all the crew and cast. Im a dreamer as every filmmaker must be and with Paris I had two dreams connected with. The first one to meet Bernardo Bertolucci or Vittorio Storaro, the cameraman, who shot "The Last Tango in Paris" because I just love this masterpiece and In 2017 Vittorio came to Prague and I was so lucky I could speak to him and took a picture with him. The second one which I guess it was even more foolish was to be able screen my own movie in Paris.
How essential are festivals like ÉCU in creating a genuine platform for independent films and filmmakers?
It's very important because you keep us fighting and believing our job has sense and it isn’t useless.
"...I wanted the most important thing from them to understand characters they played so then during the shooting we didn’t need to reshoot it many times."
Can you tell me how The First Night came about, what was the inspiration behind your screen play?
After this success of "Treasure" I was lucky enough I met the director Karel Smyczek and cameraman Martin Šec. Karel Smyczek is one of our best Czech director his movie Why? (Un certain regard was in 1988 in Cannes), and cameraman Martin who not only studied but as well worked with with Emir Kusturica ("On the Milky Road" with Monica Bellucci) that I convinced them to shoot this movie. Karel as a script supervisor and Martin as cameraman they both teach at FAMU (the school where studied Miloš Forman, Věra Chytilová or Jiří Menzel or Kusturica) so it was a beautiful but a hard job because I didn’t want to disappoint them and I have to say I am very grateful of them how much they taught me so I can say when I called about ECU I was crying on the phone.
Speaking about the inspiration itself for the movie I have to admit I was rational enough. Martin told me that when as a student at the FAMU he shot with Emir Kusturica a short movie which was based on a short story by Luigi Pirandello and Jiří Menzel (Oscar awarded director) acted there as well. So I started to read Luigi Pirandello’s short stories and I discovered "The First Night" which I consider as one of the most beautiful short story I ever read.
With this being your second short film when working on a short like this how much flexibility do you allow yourself with your screenplay?
To be honest not too much before the shooting I did twice rehearsals and let actors express themselves and modify the dialogs if they were right I wanted the actors felt comfortable during the shooting and of course I wanted the most important thing from them to understand characters they played so then during the shooting we didn’t need to reshoot it many times.
Another thing is editing this is a new creative process and there I allow much more flexibility. I am very lucky that my editor Maja Benc is also my good friend and we respect each other, we understand each other and we are not worried to express our opinion.
What was the biggest challenges you faced making The First Night?
As I said to convince the real professionals to work with me.
Looking back, what would you say have been the most valuable lessons you have taken from making The First Night?
Not to give up.
What do your films say about you as a filmmaker?
I guess I am a normal vulnerable human being who makes mistakes and tries to survive.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
I had but I had a respect for it as well that’s why for long time I didn’t have the courage to start it.
How different was your approach to making The First Night compared to how you made Poklad - The Treasure?
"The Treasure" I shot as "Pippi Longstocking" by Astrid Lindgren when she said I've never done it so definitely I will be good at it and "The First Night" I shot oh my god how can I be so cheeky to ask Martin Šec to shoot my short movie and when he agreed I had to pretend all the time I'm a real professional. So this is what we are - the indie filmmakers as foolish as Don Quixote who was fighting for his dreams.
Do you think filmmakers should continue to push the boundaries of the films/stories they want to tell?
They have to but they have to think of the audience as well. I mean I want people like my movies.
What top 3 tips would you offer a fellow filmmakers?
1) The first thing is that they have to ask themselves if they really want to be filmmakers it if they are ready to become Don Quixote among normal people if they are ready not to have the regular income if they are ready for failure if they are ready that around them there will be always somebody who is luckier and they say yes they have to ask themselves if they are ready to convince actors to do what they want to do, if they are ready that even if they have the complete crew and cast somebody will be sick or will change his mind?
2) They have to read, read and read, and then to study, study and study from paintings, music too psychology, history and languages.
3) They can’t stop living otherwise their movies will be boring or impersonal and audience are like kids they will be pretty open to tell them this.
And finally, what massage do you hope your audiences will take away from The First Night?
It's totally normal if we are not strong enough to forget our previous life but also it's totally normal if we move on.