Interview with the Class Enemy director – Rok Bicek for Eliberart Magazine

An interview taken by Ştefan Agănencei and Călin Nahaiciuc

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Still from Class Enemy

1.Being a film about pedagogy (or at least dealing with pedagogy), does Class Enemy have its own lesson ? If there is one, what is its proposal?

I tried to avoid to answer this question through the whole process of working on this film. You will have to find this answer within yourself. This is your homework, your piece of contribution to get Class Enemy as a whole. And I think that it is also a privilege to have your own, private lesson which can totally differ from the one that had someone else sitting next to you in the cinema.

  1. What do you want to explore, politically and sociologically, with the students rebellion against the teacher perceived as the agent of the young Sabina’s suicide ?

The story is based on true events I experienced at high school, when one of the students committed suicide. This tragedy was followed by a spontaneous rebellion by her classmates against the school system and the teachers. The rebellious students didn’t have specific enemy to fight against, since they couldn’t blame directly anyone for the death of their classmate. Lightning candles on the school stairs, reading manifesto on the school radio and boycotting classes became the means of giving vent to personal frustrations. Those images were so strong that ten years later they were still present in my memory. I was fascinated in how the classroom as a group protagonist unites around the single idea, against one common enemy and when they defeat him they argue between themselves. That is a classic pattern of revolution, which need a common enemy to bring the group together. And my teacher of mathematics was a character that inspired me in total for the role of demanding teacher of German language. I admit that we had to invent this role to get the conflict in the script to the much higher level. In reality this character never existed and if those students were more experienced in fighting against the system they would have had to make him up.

3.Except the true events inspiration, do you have some worldwide observation about the particular innocent protests generating a massive social-activism cause ?

Not really. The real incident inspired me ten years later. During a more detailed research of these events I found out a lot about the mutual relationships of the main participants and tense situations going on between them back then. This served as a strong framework for the story and as the basis for most of the scenes in the film. But if we look back in the history we can see this pattern of “massive social-activism” going on for centuries. Great fire of Rome, Reichstag Fire, 9/11, Charlie Hebdo shooting…

  1. Can the weak and unprepared school staff (e.g.the psychologist, the dean or the sports teacher) function as a breach in education starting an anarchist reserve against the autority ?

Of course their reactions and behavior add some fuel on the fire but this can’t be the main reason. This is a complex question from the field of group dynamics, which is already a science. To be honest, I tried to allocate burden to all involved in this tragedy. Like it is usually in our lives. Nothing is so black and white as some would like (us) to believe. You have to find your own shade of grey.

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Rok Bicek

  1. I feel that the kids represent the larger concept of a pointlessly wasted yet lively freedom, while the teacher represents a controlled yet cold sense of purpose. Where do you stand between these two in terms of life philosophy ?

It’s funny that you’re still trying to get an answer to that same question. But at the same time it means that you were strucked by the story which delight me a lot. I don’t know. It is a matter of perspective. During the process of rehearsals I was shifting from one side to another and back, but luckily I found out my own position as a director before the shooting started. The most important moment for me was when I figure out a simple fact that I as a director shouldn’t judge anyone’s character and that led me in my relationship with actors. I tried to give to each of them felling that their character is doing right thing, that he or she is a good-guy. From their perspective of course. And that is everything that you have in you real life. Your own perspective. And you as spectator, you have your own. That’s why I can’t answer to this question.

  1. Have you got a special sympathy for social manifesto films ? How do you define rebellion in cinema ?

Maybe. I never thought about this. For example I like The Bicycle Thief, 400 blows and Rebel without a cause. For me they are all social manifesto films and they deal with the rebellion in cinema in totally different perspectives. Which one do you have in mind?

  1. In an earlier interview you mentioned Cristian Mungiu’s 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days as one of the films you particularly enjoyed. What do you think about the romanian new wave cinema ?

I saw this film when I was in the second year in film school and I remember that I was blown away because I never thought that film can look like 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days. I was literally stoned after the screening and I went to the cinema for 6 more time in one month to repeat this experience. There are a lot of different segments that I enjoy every time I’m watching it, but to point out the most important for me is how time and space are perceived. To sum up I am a big fan of Romanian cinema, probably one of the biggest in my generation of Slovenian directors. Maybe there is only one small problem with trademark of “Romanian new wave”. With all big brands you always get forgeries. But I’m sure that this wave will go along and I’m looking forward for new masterpieces from yours cinema. I remember a taxi drive in 2010 with Corneliu Porumboi from Montpellier Film Festival to the airport. It was amazing experience for me as a student when we were talking about the scene with the dictionary in his film Police, adjective. It’s funny that I’ve made a scene with the dictionary in Class Enemy too. Romanian cinema had definitely deep impact on me.

  1. Do you already have some other material planned for the future ?

Yes, I’m working on an observational docu “The Family”, which tells the story of a boy who is becoming a man and his struggles to have a normal family. It follows Matej (14-23 years old) over a span of nine years. At the age of 14 already having to take care of his mentally challenged parents and his brother born with the Down syndrome, Matej spent an isolated youth among his peers and lost himself in the virtual reality, trying to escape from his problems. As he became father himself at the age of 20, it seemed as if he was able to transcend life patterns and create a family on his own with his girlfriend and their daughter. But this idyllic life lasted for only
two months, until Barbara left Matej. Right now, they are fighting
over their daughter’s custody…

  1. How do you feel your film making would be changed by a significantly bigger budget ?

I will tell when it happens.

10. What are some of your other fields of interest besides film? Do they tie in someway with your movie-making?

Before I entered a film school I studied archeology for one year. This was actually my big love from childhood that was a little bit neglected for the last ten years. I hope that I will find time for it and do some small steps closer to the hidden history of mankind. And of course it is tied with my movie-making. Couple of years ago when I was a visitor at Sarajevo film festival I spent a whole day at Pyramids in Visoko that is 30 minutes drive away from Sarajevo. It was crazy experience, worth of skipping that day of program at the festival. You should go there too.

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