Mikhail Kalatozishvili interviewed by Andrey Plakhov and Olga Galitskaya ("Kultura" Radio Station, Russia)

- Did you read the script in the beginning of 90’s when it was written?

No, I didn’t read it. I didn’t know Lutsik and Samoryadov very well at that time. We met a few times at the Kinotavr Film Festival. They studied at VGIK (The All-Russian State Institute of Cinematography) after I had already finished it.

- Lutsik and Samoryadov have already become cult figures and they are very significant for their generation. They both had quite tragic fates. And because of it a lot of people treated them as classics and a number of directors wanted to make this script into a movie. But you didn’t have this desire? In other words, did the script fall into your hands after all of this calmed down?

I got it from Sergei Snezhkin who had the rights for this script. I read it and suddenly understood that those eight years that I was supposed to wait had passed. I clearly understood that either I’ll make this movie or I’ll die here in melancholy and in producing. And I started to fight over the script. The thing is that as soon as I started working on it, it suddenly became apparent that the whole of Russia, well, half of Russia, was dreaming of making this film. One thing I can’t understand, what stopped them from shooting it for all of this time since 1992 when the script was written?!

- Maybe a lot of people dreamed about making it, but they were scared because it’s a serious step. When Wild Field fell into your hands, you had a feeling that you needed to shoot this picture. Why did you get this feeling?

There is a certain kind of story in Wild Field that does not surround us yesterday nor tomorrow. It’s a story where time is frozen, a story that will exist forever. Film is a kind of reflection of what you think and experience. One part of this story is very precious to me - it’s always been hard to do your work well. It’s still hard now and it will continue to be hard. I was always saying I was trying to make a movie about a happy man.

- You’re talking about the lead character of the film?


- The hero of the film is a young doctor who comes to a deserted place that can’t be even called a field. It’s really like the edge of the earth. It’s somewhere in the steppes of Kazakhstan, where no one lives. It’s the so-called 'Tatar Desert".

I wouldn’t say it has to be Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan does not affect the story.

- You said that the lead character carries out his mission in spite of the total absurdity of his existence in this strange world. But he carries it out very naturally.

Of course, he likes to be there. When I’m asked, "Who did he run away from?" I say that he didn’t run away to this place. We live here in Moscow, we drive cars. We have an absolutely established way of life. And in this sense a person who drops out of it seems to us to be some asocial creature. But he didn’t run away from anybody. Maybe he was assigned. Maybe he was horrified to see where he winded up when he climbed out of the truck that took him there.

There is a big bucket standing by the house. He started to repaint part of the house, but then he stopped because he understood that this is just taking up time. And so what, he’ll paint one wall and then another… And what will come of it? Will it make him leave this place after he finishes? And so when he understood that he didn’t need to leave he stopped even painting the house. He understood that he shouldn’t see patients inside there because it will bring nothing but misery and infection. It’s unsanitary there - inside both this house-hospital and on that stone laying in the open steppe. But at least the stone is dusted off by the winds that blow from all directions. Everything changed when this strange man Mitya showed up.

- Yes, like it always happens in Russia when people suddenly realize that they need someone.

As soon as he finds himself on the verge of death, they suddenly find the courage in themselves to tell him, "We can’t get by without you." By the way, this dialogue came about during post-production. The actor recorded the final words, "Dmitry Vasilyevich, don’t die, we won’t get by without you” in a totally childish way, just like a child. And we left it in. This line was not in the script.

- Where did the shooting take place?

We were 80 kilometers away from the Chinese border. We lived in a village called Axay and were driving 40 kilometers to this totally wild place. There are no signs of life there at all. And it was at this place that we built a house for Mitya.

- What about the actors that appear briefly in the film? For instance that wonderful herder that brings his sick cow. He’s just an incredible character.

He was played by Alexandr Korshunov, an actor at the Maly Theatre.

- You’re not a fan of casting locals as your actors, are you?

No, I like this idea, but because we were in Kazakhstan shooting a story about Russia, it wasn’t easy to find locals. I figured that I would have to bring some actors and the rest we could cast from locals. But it didn’t work out that way. For instance, we were looking for a policeman for a long time and we took Roman Madyanov out of despair. He’s a famous actor and I was afraid of this kind of well-known face in the film. But Roman Madyanov came and I gave him some dialogue for an audition. Roman took it, looked at it, and started to improvise. There wasn’t one clean word in his delivery. The same thing happened with Yuri Stepanov. He had to be special because his character takes such a long journey, goes all the way there ultimately just to ask that ancient Russian question, "Do you believe in God?"

- What makes a director choose a certain actor?

When Dolin entered the room I almost fell to the ground. First of all, I didn’t know he was so tall, and second, he had a shaved head with a Mohawk. I looked at him and wondered what could I do with him? How could I shoot him? We took his photo and did an audition. They barely pulled me into the room to watch it. I started to watch and suddenly understood that we’d found him. We found him and that was it.

- I think he fits into the atmosphere of the film so organically because on one hand he’s different from the other characters but on the other he doesn’t arrogantly tower over them. There is nothing "Moscow" about him. At least you don’t see it in the movie. You trust him. It’s interesting to watch him.

I want to go back to my earlier question. In their times, Pyotr Lutsik and Alexei Samoryadov were obviously writing this script for themselves. Of course, if they were alive they would have made this picture themselves. I think it certainly would have happened. You made your film. It’s not a Lutsik and Samoryadov film but Kalatozishvili film. In one phrase, what is this film for you?

I’m not ready to answer that question. Usually a moment of sadness comes when the work on a film is over. Later at some point the film lets you go and then I understand that the film lives its own life and there is nothing I can do for it anymore. But this moment of parting with the film has not come yet. That’s why I can’t answer your question.

- Then I’ll ask it differently. This story is Lutsik and Samoryadov’s take on the world in the beginning of the 90’s when the Soviet Union was falling apart. It was definitely an impulse for writing the story. Today it’s not that relevant. What did you see and feel in this plot today? What sparked and inspired you?

Many people told me that the story correlates with what was happening in the country. For me, this is absolutely secondary. For me, this man is what’s important, just him. Only him. And in general, it’s only individuals that are important to me. If a society consists of individuals then that society deserves respect. If an individual is being banished from a society then it’s not a society, it’s something else. I think that today we are facing the problem of an absence of individuals. I mean individuals that can say "No" to the society. Even soccer can’t exist without it. Everybody understands that there really is no team. But something happened and everyone started to believe in victory. And I think it was the captain of our team who said, "We walked from the way of total disdain and hate to total idolatry so fast that it makes me scared." And he’s right because there is nothing in this way. Nothing was fully felt out, nothing was worked out through pain. It’s just a moment. And a moment can easily return with a terrible vengeance. I feel that we live this way, we live erratically.

- But this is a typical Russian quality. The whole of Russia is built upon it.

That’s why I’m saying that it will always be relevant. This movie is about how difficult it is to do your work well if you believe in it. In the end, the Gospel is also about how difficult it is to do your work well. Alone.