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Lilith Kraxner, Milena Czernovsky

Already with their first feature-length film Beatrix (FID 2021), Milena Czernovsky and Lilith Kraxner demonstrated the subtlety of their portraiture with the attention they paid to the slightest gestures, to ways of being, of occupying a space or a place. In this second feature, they bring to our attention two young women in their twenties, Errol and Sacha. We do not learn much about them. The film, rooted in their everyday lives, moves from situation to situation, simply sketched, perceived in fragments, without any striking events, seeming to belong to the everyday fare of an apparently uneventful life. “Are you mad, are you normal, are you weak?” is the question in the form of a prologue posed by the magnificent trio of elderly women who punctuate the film like an ancient Greek chorus making a commentary. From gestures to situations left in suspense, with elliptical editing, bluish gives us a glimpse of their inner workings, showing each of the two protagonists with their own hesitations, their own enigma. Grow up? Become an adult; find a place to be oneself. And create an identity. A moment in life, bathed in the blue of the title: the city in winter, the virtual world that punctuates the film as if echoing their questions. And also their feelings, and the nuanced atmosphere in which the film unfolds.

Nicolas Feodoroff

bluish is your second collaboration, after BEATRIX which premiered at FID in 2021. Here we follow two characters, Errol and Sasha, in their twenties. How did this project begin?

We started by collecting moments of the everyday that we experienced ourselves, or observed in our surroundings, moments we wanted to give space and time to within a film, in order to grasp a certain atmosphere that we sensed around us. It was a time after several lockdowns, caused by the covid pandemic and we had the feeling that social life somehow rearranged itself in sometimes awkward, sometimes challenging or even exciting new ways. To embody these notions of ambiguity and insecurity, we created two characters that lead us through fragments of their daily lives.
Based on this, the two of us started working on a script, always accompanied by Lara Bellon our creative consultant as well as our cinematographer Antonia de la Luz Kašik, who are also very close friends of ours. With bluish it was the first time for us working with a production (Panama Film), but still we are a small team consisting of people that are very dear to us.

We follow them in their everyday activities. The atmosphere is very quiet, gloomy. How did this choice come up?

We set our film in winter, because we found that it fit very well to the atmosphere and state of being we wanted to capture. We were interested in how a season can affect the way we move through public spaces, the way we experience our bodies and how interactions can sometimes feel even more challenging. We talked a lot about the obstacles of the everyday, about feeling heavy and motionless, but also about breaths of relief in between, when other worlds and possibilities open up. Seeing a performance, listening to a specific song, or finding an unexpected connection with someone in the right moment, can sometimes mean a lot.

One of the film’s main themes seems to be the body, the relationship we have with our bodies, the place it takes, the desire it contains. Do you agree with this? And in many situations, this desire express itself in a very discreet -but insistent- way, and paradoxically as if it was floating. Why this uncertainty?

Our protagonists are longing for closeness in order to feel something, whilst being unsure of what exactly they are searching for. We exchanged thoughts on the desire of feeling your own body through the external – through objects, surfaces, liquids, waters or other bodies that touch, or even merge with your own. The state of fluidity, of morphing into different forms, is a metaphor that corresponds very well for us with bluish.

Electronic or virtual devices come regularly in the film (google street view, the 3D images, the long quasi hypnotic scene with the relaxing program…). Your interest in emphasizing this?

As we shot on 16mm film, it was important to us, to situate the film in the here and now, to not make it look timeless. That’s why we intentionally decided to include, rather than to spare screens and everyday technologies, to preserve a feeling of contemporariness.
Furthermore, we aimed to create multiple layers within the film, allowing viewers to experience both: everyday situations and other worlds intertwined in our reality – stories within stories. By collaborating with a number of artists and collectives, we offered space and time gaps, for them to expand our perspective through their contributions. We also wanted to play with the role of spectatorship: the audience may expect to stay a cinema audience, but then becomes an audience to a performance, a game, or unexpectedly attends a meditation.

You give a specific attention to the frames, and build an elliptic temporality. How this formal approach came up?

We try to create scenes using only one or very few images. Only a part of what might happen is caught by our frame, but we will never see everything. It is important to us to emphasize that film is always just the staging of a fragment. We prefer to play with this concept, rather than pretend that we are witnessing a ‘reality’ that just happens to be contained within this frame. We want to give space to the unseen, unheard, and unarticulated. Gaps allow viewers room for their own experiences, feelings, and reflections.

How did you work with the main actresses? Their part in the building of their characters? In the development of the narrative?

We mostly work with performance artists and non-professional actors, that’s why it is particularly important to us to create an environment that feels as safe as possible and a framework in which our cast can participate in shaping their scenes. We try to engage with the persons we are working with, to include their backgrounds, adapt and develop their character together, so they can relate to them and feel free to improvise in certain, pre-defined moments.
With Leonie Bramberger we went through a casting process during which a lot of the character development happened simultaneously and we extensively discussed her role and the atmosphere we wanted to convey. While shooting we are always very much in the moment and concentrated on the details of the particular scene that we are about to shoot.
Natasha Goncharova we actually got to know at FIDMarseille 2021, when we premiered BEATRIX. During the script writing process of bluish, we met her again at FICUNAM in Mexico City and realized that we would love to work with her, so we wrote a character based on her. Returning to FID together now means a lot to us.

Interviewed by Nicolas Feodoroff

  • Ciné + competition  
  • International Competition
21:3026 June 2024Cinéma Artplexe 3
09:3027 June 2024Variétés 1
16:1529 June 2024La Baleine

Technical sheet

Austria / 2024 / Colour / 83'

Original version: German, English, Russian
Subtitles: English, French
Script: Milena Czernovsky, Lilith Kraxner
Photography: Antonia de la Luz Kašik
Editing: Lilith Kraxner, Milena Czernovsky
Music: Benedikt Palier
Sound: Benedikt Palier
Cast: Leonie Bramberger , Natasha Goncharova

Production: Lixi Frank (Panama Film KG ), David Bohun (Panama Film KG )
Contact: Wouter Jansen (Square Eyes)

BEATRIX, 2021, 95 min