Interview with Iveta Grófová
Director Iveta Grófová made her debut with the feature film Made in Ash (2012) which the Slovak Film and Television Academy selected as the national candidate for the Academy Awards. Her next film, the adaptation of the book She’s a Harbour has been an eagerly anticipated new film.
After auteur films, here you are with a free adaptation of the successful novel She’s a Harbour. However, you got to know the author of the book, Monika Kompaníková, thanks to a documentary.
– First I made a TV documentary about Monika entitled The Diary of Monika Kompaníková’s Cruise. This project was initiated and produced by Petr Minařík, a book publisher. It was actually a road movie compiled from Monika Kompaníková’s book-reading tour. I got a very good feeling from our communication during the tour and I became enthusiastic about her book She’s a Harbour. It was just before the premiere of Made in Ash in Karlovy Vary in 2012 and without much further thought I decided to try to make a film based on this book. It is an original game played with the reader and I hope, subsequently, also with the audience. The book has a very powerful emotional plot capable of readily drawing the readers in and not letting them go up to the very last lines. At the same time, I found many layers in it which were also a challenge for me. Because, on the one hand, we look at the moving story of two children who try to take care of babies as best as they can but, on the other hand, there is an inner tension, a concern for the lives of the babies, beneath all this. Balancing between the positive aspect and the inner tension, even fear drew me to the book.
The main role – little Jarka – was played by ten-year-old Vanessa from Bratislava who had absolutely no experience whatsoever with acting. It must be very demanding to direct children and you have to have your own methods of doing it.
– The most important thing was to find a really talented little girl. Her role required deeper psychology in the acting performance and, at the same time, I looked for a certain spark, a temperament within her to make the character of Jarka interesting for audience. And I found this girl in Vanessa. The most difficult thing was motivating the children to make them want to shoot the film and to make them enjoy it. Once something became routine to them, it wasn’t so easy to figure out how to continue effectively. Of course, making the child characters credible was a great challenge. We took a big chance because the main heroine really is in almost every shot and she has to carry the entire film. And we also know that adult audiences have difficulties in identifying with a child in the title role. I tried to do my best to avoid feeling somewhat embarrassed from the child-acting performance.
Little Harbour is the first full-length film for director of photography Denisa Buranová. Why have you chosen a debutante for your team?
– Denisa Buranová took part in making the documentary The Diary of Monika Kompaníková’s Cruise we already mentioned. Thanks to this she became very closely connected to the book. She also collaborated with me when making the documentary Blues for Single Mothers and on other smaller projects. I was looking for a good partner for collaboration as the visual aspect of the film is very important for me. And I admit that I rather wanted a female cinematographer for Little Harbour. Denisa is a very strong aesthetician, she’s got a feeling for the atmosphere. The film is her full-length debut and I was also happy about the enthusiasm she brought into the film. In essence, I approached several crew members as debutants who are younger than me. And I did so deliberately. They brought some fresh air into the film and I believed that it would be something exceptional for them, hence they would be able to cope with the demanding conditions entailed when working with children and babies.
So you started with animated film, then you switched to documentary at the Academy of Performing Arts and now you’ve made two fiction films. What took you away from animated reality to the real one?
– I think that I searched for myself for three years at the Animation Department of the Film and Television Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts. This also concerns themes that I would like to bring. And I found them in documentary film. Paradoxically, then I was again attracted to animated film which I combined with documentary. If I were now to find a theme requiring animated form, I would try to create an animated film.
Abridged from film.sk (English Special Edition)