Directing explication ‘At the Table with Slavs’
‘Pierre is a first-class actor in so much more; he is a man who charms you with his warmth, experience, curiosity, wit and unbelievable life energy. The way Slavs experience him has been best described by our co-worker and translator into the Russian language, Aleksandra Krasovec:
‘In Russia, Pierre Richard is even more popular than in France, Russians adore him, he is actually part of their collective consciousness’. And the same could be said about other Slavic countries. Who then could be more suitable for the job of sitting at the table with Slavs? To come to know Slavs of today, who despite capitalism and globalization carry within their own tradition and culture. What best defines a nation is its culture, culture of music, food, theatre, film, literature, wine… culture is what makes us different and links us together. I have never been witness to any show that would represent and link all Slavic countries together. Let us introduce ourselves to the audience, let’s give them a chance to get to know us, feel us and experience us. Let them sit at the table. Not only the Non-Slavic audience; let a Russian sit at the table with a Slovene, a Montenegro with a Pole, a Bulgarian with a Belarusian… Slavic soul is beautiful.
I contact people from different countries, invite them as professional co-workers to join the project on the ground of a good idea and the desire that the show become alive and available to the broader public; we are developing the project with their honest help; the feeling of connectedness is priceless. It fuels the project with strength and energy
We don’t wish to present standard tourist postcards, with folklore and the contents you usually find in every tourist guide or google it up. We will reveal the heart of every country, its pulse and the life blood running through it.
The show format is set with a clear vision. It is given a more relaxed and not too ‘mathematical’ outline. In every state, Pierre will be received by a host who will reveal the essence, beauty, humorous stereotypes… of his own country – with the help of his friends.
Our unshakable faith will enable us to bring interesting creative people together at the table; both in production and onscreen. The result can be nothing short of a miracle to be revealed in each and every episode. This is the only possible result, considering the positive energy and honesty already shown at work. It is the only true equation. Production-wise, this will be a product measured against the highest standards. We shall make use of Russian film tradition with all its poetics and power of association, adding the Kusturica madness, upgrading it with the Prague Film School, drawing from each state the ideas and knowledge and combining it all to get a most topical TV show.
I truly believe that with our film direction, camera and framing knowledge we can achieve a top-entertainment show. The audiences deserve top products and given our knowledge and possibilities of providing it to them, I see no reason why we shouldn’t do our best to give them the best thing the audio-visual culture can offer; even though it’s just a TV show and not a film.
Honesty, valour, optimism and humour, this is the motto of our show.
P.S.: Please don’t look at this project analytically, statistically… just relax and remember the times when we would simply feel and believe.
SRBIJA – TREATMENT
Our planet viewed from outer space (like in Google Earth). Vertical drop towards the Earth. Europe stands out with visible outlines. The borders of Serbia getting sharper. Camera suddenly stops (with audible car breaks). Words writing out on the screen with the typewriter noise in the back:
Capital City: Belgrade (1.639.121 inhabitants)
Captions disappear, a quick drop to Serbia. Belgrade. Mt. Avala, Avala Tower more exactly. A kind of electrical connection with the tower top. Camera seems to assume its panoramic view. Pierre falls to the ground. Stands up, brushing dust off his clothes.
OFF: Pierre: My name is Pierre Richard, actor and wine lover …
(looking at Belgrade from the gazebo) ‘I’ve heard that Serbs like to call themselves “the heavenly nation”. So I guess the only proper way of paying them a visit is straight from the sky. The national anthem is called “God of Justice”, there, again related to heavens. Some even claim they are the oldest nation in the world. I hope I am old enough to enjoy their company.’ (scrathes his grey beardPočeše se po sedoj bradi, smiles and makes a cool-dude gesture. Turns around and looks again at the landscape.)
Camera shows what Pierre sees.
‘Serbia is a state situated on the Balkan Peninsula. Today, Serbia is territorially much smaller than it was in the time of tsar Dušan the Great, even though he lived 700 years ago. And yet they can still easily brag that, within their current borders, no less than 17 Roman imperators were born. Serbia is woven with history. Rather bloody history. Serbs would wage a war whenever they could seize the opportunity, and they have an ability to mythically transform their defeats into victories. This is a small but proud nation. In the Great War of 1914 they won their first alliance victory against Austro-Hungary on the slopes of Mount Cer. Victory was celebrated by Serbs as well as the French, the British as well as the Russians.’
Pierre moves to the elevator. The doors close behind him. The doors open again, he exits. He is no longer on Mt. Avala, but in Belgrade, Knez Mihajlova Street. People taking a stroll, it’s a beautiful day, restaurant gardens are packed, children, street musicians. He looks around. Approaches the Prince Mihailo Monument.
Pierre into camera: ‘When you want to meet with someone in Belgrade, people usually say to you: ‘U Beogradu kad treba da se s nekim nađeš, obično ti kaže: “Wait for me at the horse.” And everybody knows that this is the spot they talk about, even though this monument wasn’t raised to a horse, but to the ruler Prince Mihailo … on a horse.’
Camera rises up to the monument and shoots towards the National Theatre, with Miki Manojlović approaching. The camera stops on Miki. Again the sound of typewriter, with the following captions:
Predrag Miki Manojlović
Actor and honorary doctor of the European Film Academy
Captions disappear. Miki and Pierre greet each other, kissing three times on alternating cheeks.
Pierre: ‘This is a Serbian habit. They kiss three times. They raise three fingers instead of the victory sign….’
Miki: (objašnjava mu simboliku, razgovaraju o Srbiji, Beogradu, kulturi, mladima koji sede usred radnog dana po kafićima dok se kreću Knez Mihajlovom ka Kalemegdanu. Idu ka Pobedniku, naslanjaju se na ogradu. Pogled na ušće Save u Dunav i na grad).
Pierre: ‘All this walking makes you hungry. Let’s go and grab some food. But “on foot”. To begin with.”
They sit in a cab. Shots of Belgrade from out of the vehicle – parliament, the Knez Miloš Street, Nemanjina Street, The Church of Saint Sava, Autokomanda neighbourhood, Stepin Vajat restaurant.
OFF Pierre (while driving): “Belgrade was demolished many a time. The traces of the last devastation during NATO bombarding in 1999 are still clearly visible (General Headquarters building) On the opposite side stands the largest Orthodox sanctuary in all its magnificence. It is dedicated to Saint Sava, who laid the foundations for the Serbian Orthodox Church in 1219. Actually, Serbian Slava (celebration of a family’s patron saint) is a unique phenomenon on a global scale. Each family in Serbia venerates its patron saint. Three days in a row. Family and friends gather, there’s great abundance of food, and the brandy toasts to the saint are so frequent that at least half of the guests can hardly find the door on their way home.’
They come to Stepin vajat. Stepping out of the cab, Pierre can already smell the barbecue. Together with Miki they order food. Miki talks to the staff and the guests. He looks to the right and sees reflector lights. He tells him it’s the Crvena Zvijezda football stadium.
OFF Pierre: Serbs adore sports. True, much more by watching it than by taking part in it. And they are all great connoisseurs. Out of the seven million inhabitants in Serbia, a minimum of six million are selectors! There is no coatch good enough to satisfy their expectations! National teams have won world, European and olympic gold medals in basketball, water polo, volleyball, claiming new successes in shooting, athletics, swimming… However, football has always been the number one. But meassured only by the strenght of love for it. Because since 1991, no team or national team has pulled it off. Since the Crvena Zvijezda team has been European and world champion. But this is still the favourite topic among the people, as if time has come to a halt.
(Pierre’s comments are accompanied by the shots of various Serbian sportsmen winning their medals, standing on winners podiums, Novak Đoković receiving a trophy, welcoming reception on the parliament balcony, Crvena zvezda from Bari)
OFF Pierre: Hold on, hold on… I left out something. Go back. (shots rewinding faster and faster) Stop. (stops on Đoković) This Serbian guy is currently the best tennis player in the world. Now I’m off to the restaurant of Novak Đoković. To see whether he his serving (food) in the restaurant is of the same quality as it is on the tennis court.
The frozen camera shot of Novak Đoković changes into a photo on the wall and the camera moves towards the entrance doors. Pierre and Miki appear. Đoković awaits them. The camera stops on Novak. The sound of the typewriter and the following captions:
The best tennis player in the world
Captions are removed. Đoković is a great entertainer and a witty guy. They talk about Serbian mentality, the sportsman’s favourite Serbian food, of the food he loves but isn’t allowed to enjoy, while Novak serves his service. On saying goodbye, Pierre takes a tennis racket. Hits the ball high in the air. Camera follows the ball. Bird’s-eye view of Belgrade, shots from the air. While he speaks, the last shots are already evening images… OFF Pierre: ‘Belgrade has kept the spirit of the past. Through architecture, Kalemegdan fortress, summer houses of Serbian rulers… and Skadarlija.’ Photo ’The ball’ falls on Skadarlija street. Early evening. Pierre and Miki walking. Sounds of traditional music all the while in the background. They enter the garden of the coffee house ’My hat’. They approach one of the tables. Pierre shakes hands with Jadranka Jovanović. The camera stops on her. The sound of typewriter with the following captions:
Prima donna of the National Theatre Opera
Captions removed. Pierre shakes hands with Pero Božović. Camera stops on Pero. Kadar se zaustavlja na Peri. The sound of typewriter with the following captions:
The bard of Serbian theatre
Captions removed. Pierre shakes hands with Zdravko Čolić. Camera stops on Čole. The sound of typewriter with the following captions:
The greatest pop star of the Balkans.
Captions removed. Thy all sit down. Music coming from the coffee house. Food and drinks are served. Pierre about to try Karađorđe vešalica. They talk about how this little nation generated so many great people, they talk of Ivo Andrić, the Nobel Prize winner for literature, of Nikola Tesla, without whom the world would never be what it’s like today, of how Serbs express their joys and sorrows. The band comes closer to the table. Close to Pierre’s ear they start playing ’Break dawn’ or „Sleeplessness’. He gives banknotes to the musicians… They leave to rest. It’s moonlight. The music is still audible. He gets out on the street. Looks into the moon. The moon is zoomed in.
The moon changes into flat cake. The shot gets wider. Salt beside the cake. The shot gets wider. The tray is held by a woman in Serbian national costume. She’s at Emir Kusturica’s on Mećavnik. Pierre dips the cake into salt. Emir gives him a hug. They kiss, again, naturally, three times. Camera stops on Kusturica. The sound of typewriter with the following captions:
Film director, winner of two Golden Palms in Cannes
They sit in the garden. People passing by, sitting at tables. A merry atmosphere. A beautiful summer day. They ask Kusturica about why a famous artist chose to build an ethno-village and even move to live there. About his outlook on Serbia and the Serbian people. The table laden with Užice komplet lepinja, sarma, kajmak, cheese, prosciutto, ajvar, Na stolu užička komplet lepinja, sarma, kajmak, sir, pršuta, ajvar, rakija. The sound of trumpet. Trumpeters of Dejan Petrović approaching, wearing national costumes in the rhythm of ’The Drina March’ song. Pierre wants to hear more about the composition. The trumpet gets louder. Camera ’enters’ the trumpet. The dark.
The trumpeter’s rhythm changes into the rattling of train. It’s still dark. The siren sounds. The old train ’ćira’ exits from the tunnel into the light of day. Pierre sits in it. Travels through the narrow-gauge Šargan Eight. Looks through the window. Wounderful landscape.
Pierre: ’This kind of train would once take you to the Adriatic. A part of the railway has been renovated, so now Šargan Eight, with the distance of only 15 km, takes you through 22 tunnels.’ Photo Pierre takes out his diary. Writes down his impressions. Reading out loud what he jots down. Starts to talk about national costumes. Starts imagining… Landscapes disappearing in the flickering of light.
The blurry image ’clears out’ through the smoke. The shot gets wider. Pig revolving on the roasting-spit. Pierre sits beside the spit in the national costume, wearing the šajkača hat. He’s in Sirogojno. Around him boys and girls in national costumes. Food, brandy on the table… They make toasts. One of them takes the accordion. Starts to play ’Užice kolo’The young start to dance. Pierre watches and enjoys. Two girls run up to him, taking him by the hand and pulling him into the kolo. He starts to dance himself. Suddenly the music stops. Next song is ’Vranje čoček’. All dressed in Serbian national costumes start to stoop. He is confused. Remains alone. But the girl with the daire tamburine approaches him and starts to dance in ecstasy around him. He sits on a three-legged stool, provided by the youngsters wearing Vranje costumes. They all dance around him, he doesn’t know where to look… He falls on his knees in front of a girl. She stoops down to him. The camera assuming Pierre’s view ’drowns’ in the gold coins on the girl’s breasts…
The yellow of the gold coins becomes ’liquid’. It turns into honey from Homolje. Take images from the Torist Organization of Serbia, making a short spot on on Serbian cuisine. Remount images from around the country, houses garnished with Leskovac red pepper, Pirot cheese, grape-stomping in barrels… OFF Pierre: The beauty here lies not only in food and drinks. The beauty of Serbia is also in its people. They’re hospitable, they always come up with a reason for celebration. With food and drink they become extremely authentic. It’s not in vain that one says here – rakija connects people. Shots from Guča appear. Attractive girls and joyous boys. all this accompanied by the song ’Kalašnjkov’ by Goran Bregović.
OFF Pierre: The Guče gathering is a real attraction. But only for those who can keep up with the seven days of all-national celebration. Who could tell whether one had more to drink or more to eat. You would certainly need a real vacation after this. To get sober again. Shots from Guča turn into shots from Exit Festival, accompanied by the music from some Serbian rock band. Perhaps the ’Klatno’ song by Van.
OFF Pierre: Those who favour a different sound, electronic or that of rock’n’roll, shall propbably prefer Exit in the Petrovaradin Fortress near Novi Sad. This festival has been officially proclaimed the best festival in Europe. But you need to be really fit for it, too. Not to forget: there is also a Beer Fest at the Sava and Danube confluence, and Gitarijada in Zaječar. All in all, be ready to have a great time, to sleepless nights with lots and lots of alcohol down your veins. Shots from Exit change to shots from the Leskovac Grill Festival, and from Slaninijada, and from Čvarkadijada, and Mudijada, and Kupusijada… OFF Pierre: In Serbia, food is really cherished. This is why there is many a manifestation devoted to it exclusively. Pljeskavica from Leskovac has been listed in the Guinness book of records, ’duvan čvarci’ are a true specialty, and bacon is so very much loved by the Serbs that when the World Health Organization announced recently that it is a health hazard and a possible cause of cancer, they started to massively sign the petition ’Justice for bacon’. All there events and foods are a real opportunity for gourmets to feed their stomachs as well s their eyes.
While saying this, camera is on the table laden with Vojvodina specialties and wines. Camera zooms out. He is at the farm of Zvonko Bogdan near Subotica. Pierre, Zvonko and Đorđe Balašević sitting at the table. Talking about wines, how the wines from here were once served at the court of Maria theresa of Austria. When Zvonko speaks, the camera freezes. The sound of typewriter and the following captions appear:
The legend of traditional music
Then Đorđe starts to talk about Serbs and their attitude to food and beverages. Again camera freezes, with the sound of typewriter the following captions appear:
Singer-songwriter and the only Pannonian sailor in the world
He shall talk about how here, in Vojvodina, there was once the Pannonian Sea. And how Serbia no longer has any sea. Bogdan’s tambura players are also here. They shall sing, for example, ’I sad svog vranca jašem’ (’And now I ride my black horse’). They visit the wine shop and zvonko’s stables. They sit on a cart. Horses drive them over the planes towards the setting sun. The stamping of horses mingles with the music of tambura players. The music growing silent. The stamping remains. The sun turns reddish…. Camera zooms it in.
Camera ’gets out’ of the treacup of a reddish tea. Say dog-rose berry. Pierre is in Belgrade again. Knez Mihajlova Street. It is night. He watches people passing by. Takes out his diary. Starts to write. Speaks out the first sentences…
Pierre: I’m sorry I could not join the night party on the Belgrade rafts. Young people say it’s an unforgettable experience… Memories of his journey come back. Images of Serbian cities, fortresses, mountains, monasteries accompanying his impressions.
OFF Pierre: Reading from his diary
Last sequence. Pierre finishes his reading, the night shot of Belgrade from the air. Everything glows. Camera back on his diary. Last sentences should be the most the most powerful. Closes his diary. As he closes it, total darkness sets in, and the closing sound is accompanied by the music of Goran Bregović’’moonlight’, which starts with the faster part ’moonlight, moonlight, oh, oh…’ Closing credits on this darkness and with the music.