“The movie directed me”: in the most exciting new movie of the year | Movie theater

ANDOu Won’t Be Alone is one of the most unusual films I have seen, or rather experienced, in recent memory, a deeply unusual and deeply moving drama about a witch who discovers how to be human by conquering the bodies of others in the province of Macedonia. of the 19th century. It is partly a horrific physical horror, partly a dream tale, partly an exercise in existentialism and extreme empathy told mainly through a strange, broken narrative by one who learns what language is and what it means as he navigates an often barbaric but often beautiful world. It really is something a lot.

“You will realize that I am an idiot very quickly,” says director Goran Stolevski, laughing at the beginning of our conversation at Zoom with disarming, and ultimately unjustified, nervousness. The 36-year-old Macedonian-Australian director, who is quickly revealed to be very not an idiot, gets on the nerves behind my dazzling five-star critique of his feature-length debut, which premiered at the Sundance Virtual Film Festival this January.

His film has the vivid feel of an old, often told fairy tale or a dusty novel with dog ears, but it is actually a true original. Stolevski, who had spent years modestly making short films (referring to himself as “the most failed director who ever failed” before he exploded), was living in Bristol when the idea came to him. He was about to turn 30, a year into a three-year period of unemployment, and as a gay immigrant, he felt like a stranger, often not talking to anyone but his husband for weeks. Also read a lot of Virginia Wool…

“Virginia helped me feel less isolated,” she tells me. “What it does with words to capture consciousness or innocence, I was really wondering how could you do that with cinema? I wanted to do something with a special feeling that I had at that time and then try to capture this way of life that has almost disappeared and to record it in all its beauty and ugliness “.

He had researched fairy tales from his homeland, but found them mostly useless. Female characters were usually sidelined, told to stay in the kitchen and then shut up and go to work, and instead found more inspiration from studying magic and how such legends allowed women to break even if such a violation often led to severe punishment.

“I think I have the brain of what is commonly known as ‘a difficult woman,’ so witches are just a natural thing to me,” she says. “I think if I lived in this time and place, I would be the person who would want to live differently because I would want more of life and I would definitely be burned at the stake. “I’m not sure what gender they would think I was, but in any case they would call me a witch.”

The film’s journey – through the bodies and lives of a woman (played by Noomi Rapace), a dog, a man and a child – becomes a frustrating, fundamental lesson in gender and power. What can a man overcome that a woman cannot? What is expected of women who are not men? Stolevski, as a young gay boy, was always attracted to “stubborn girls” who refused to accept such backward restrictions. “I learned the sense of injustice before I even understood the meaning of justice,” he tells me, recalling stories when girls were forced to do chores that boys “lazily like fucking” could avoid.

There is a clear queerness in the film, with its narrative being a misunderstood outsider, and while Stolevski denies any conscious process of making the film a queer, he admits it is an undeniable part of his job. “Everything works by instinct,” he says. “I always insist on not writing autobiographies because I’m not interested in seeing myself reflected specifically. I’m more interested in seeing if my brain, my essence, was transferred to this other person at a completely different time and in a completely different place, how I would deal with it, what I would deal with as a boundary, how I would try to find the way my;” He adds that “the weirdness obviously, I think it comes out” laughing.

Goran Stolefski is wearing a black shirt as he holds a microphone.
Goran Stolevski speaks after a screening of You Won’t Be Alone. Photo: Michael Tullberg / Getty Images

Before he decided to go into magic, his short films were mostly relationship dramas (he admits that this “started partly out of practicality, as when you are nothing and no one is trying to make films that you have to go to, what can achieved? ”) so horror was not an obvious place to go for its big debut, especially given its tendency to be rather stingy. You Won’t Be Alone can only play horror tropes instead of horror in the traditional sense, but there are no such half measures when it comes to audacity. Bodies are torn and sliced, guts are torn and pierced, it is never clear, more a matter of reality, but very little remains in one’s imagination.

“You take advantage of this creative frequency and then the film takes over and directs me,” he says. “I have an appetite to make sure I do not protect myself from any part of life. I go hiking but I have a morbid fear of heights and I will reach the top of a mountain and I literally take a fucking photo like this [he looks away while pretending to take a picture] because I have to have a photo and it has to look good. “It’s kind of like taking pictures from a great height, facing the eye.”

Even scarier than dealing with whining? Dealing with bad reviews. Although the film may have received a great deal of acclaim in Sundance in the months that followed (it currently has a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes) as an admittedly “nerd film”, Stolevski found it difficult not to fall as an autopilot. online rabbit hole just premiered. He was in the process of editing his second film, a queer love story set in the late 1990s, and found himself stuck in a particular scene. “I was just why I can not connect with this character right now and I started to feel that, wait, I was shit all this time and I just did not realize it?” He says. “The movie came out and I went to Letterboxd and honestly, I’m still 50/50. I do not know if I can be a fool based on Letterboxd! “

His self-confidence has grown since then, he has become accustomed to critics analyzing his work in a microscopic way (“I do not think it’s up to the world to be kinder, I think it’s really up to me to negotiate,” he admits) and now he has to Get in the habit of studio executives doing the same. It was not intended as such, but his film is an impressive calling card that can do anything, a debut that looks like something made by someone far beyond his career (he said elsewhere that many of Terence Malik’s comparisons have been made). “Trigger”). He is understandably skeptical about what is to follow.

“I have my team and I have a number of stories I want to tell and I am very wary of distracting people from buying you dinner and champagne,” he says. “I have written 13 screenplays. I have three others that just slip away. Most of the people who want to talk to me most of the time, just want to talk about IP, you know as a prequel to something or I just want to make a movie about fire in Bambi, but only from the point of view of fire for how it was misunderstood that it is not my jam “.

He certainly does not want to “end up in the system” and for the foreseeable future, it is difficult to see this happen. His next two films are both queer and the first of which, Of an Age, is a romance in Melbourne between a ballroom dancer and his friend’s older brother. “Look, this will make people cry,” he insists. “I’m very excited. It makes everyone cry so far at least twice. And horny at least three times which is a bit of a good balance.”

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