Mar 8, 2008

Interview with Andrey Iskanov

Andrey Iskanov is a film maker from Russia best known for his micro budget films NAILS and VISIONS OF SUFFERING released on Unearthed Films. His upcoming film Philosophy of a Knife has been met with a lot of hype and he is currently working on a Sci-Fi horror called THE TOURIST. He took the time for an interview concerning POAK.

SS: Hello Andrey, thank you very much for taking the time for this interview. To start it off, How did you get started in film making and what inspired this incredible style that you taint your film with?

AI: I always had dream about making my own movie, which for someone else years back here was practically impracticable. Therefore I started to master the work of a photographer, as being something close to cinema. The photo became for me my small cinema in which I could be engaged completely independently and imperceptibly. You should also notice, that already after some years, I have achieved the certain successes on a field of photoart. Besides I started to specialize from the first (and the last) in Russia of photofilms of horror, I also photographed girls for competitions of beauty, did advertising photos for girls which were sent in the Korean, Chinese or Japanese night clubs (though actually they were brothels), was the
photographer of the criminal chronicle in the local newspaper and much more. Besides that, I wrote horror novels (dilogy of Odour of blood) and a set of fine stories and also have written set of a revue of the western films of horror. I constantly required money and could not make the following logical step in any way. To this time I have suddenly lost the work in the newspaper (now they use free-of-charge photos from internet) and to continue to shoot girls wishing to become models and girls for the Chinese brothels at me any desire already was gone. I didn't have enough money for the following step: to start to make own film. It would be underground, guerrilla film production. But it did not frighten me because I knew completely precisely: nobody will give me money for my own film. Once I even talked in this occasion to one guy from Russian mafia. He has told me, that can give money for film and it does not make for him any problem. But he should know, how soon I can return the money and what will be his profit? Certainly I have refused his help because profit from horror films in Russia practically zero and I never could return his money. However from the end of 90's, I wrote scripts for own films and waited for a suitable chance. At last, in the beginning of 2003, light ahead began to dawn. Irina Nikitina, my good familiar from time of my photofilms, has given me money for my first film. In total about two thousand dollars. And I started to write the script of maximum cheap and simple film with a minimum of characters but with potential for some interesting effects which I could create with my own hands. Thus, almost one thousand dollars left on purchase of the camera, one thousand more dollars was spent for tickets from Kiev up to Khabarovsk (From Europe to Asia) for Alexander Shevchenko who should write music and edit the film, subsequently he also has acted also the main hero. And for ten days, i had only two hundred dollars for my disposal and to survive on. This film which today is known as Nails. Precisely why I have made Nails I can not tell. Today I look at this film absolutely differently than then, and now I would make all my films completely different. Who my influence is exactly is difficult to tell now. Obviously it was Dario Argento with his magical Inferno and Suspiria. But also many other directors, and also musical pop video clips, photographic advertising of the 70-s' years etc.

SS: With the release of Philosophy of a Knife edging closer and closer, what do you think about your finished project? Is it the bona fide source on the information on the atrocities that occurred at Unit 731?

AI: I wanted to be completely fair, both before my own conscience, and before the memory of victims of Unit 731. And if in the film there is no invented dialogue, it's only because I did not want to burden fiction and conjecture this history. And if in film there is a nice young girl in prison of Unit and the young Japanese militarian sympathizing her it at all was not elements of a romantic plot. Similar characters existed in a reality. Only I have dared to change some details for creation of the atmosphere necessary to me and the moods. The correct mood of film at times very much depends on those or other visual details. For example, I have shown in the film Unit 731 as the gloomy started place with dirty, covered with blood and rusted walls. This image was necessary for transfer for the spectator of my sensation of this place impregnated with pain, fears and suffering. In a reality of a room of Unit 731 it was sterile pure, had snow-white tiled walls and a floor. It is sure, that they were very similar to modern stomatologic studies. All is clean, sterile, accurate and is fresh. Anywhere there are no traces of blood and a tortured body are not crumpled in stacks in a corner. But it was one of few changes or simplifications of the real facts which I has admitted meaningly. In all the rest, my film follows exact chronicles and can be seen as the bible of Unit 731 studying a history, from for abundances of the original staff and memoirs of eyewitness Anatoliy Protasov. In my opinion, my film is best of all films existing today about Unit 731. It the most detailed, artistic and fair from all existing today.

SS: Since POAK is in fact a shockumentary, are you going to include the visual flair that you are famous for?

AI: Visual flair? It so refers to? To tell the truth, when I look on something a subject that, I perceive it almost just as then I show in the films. I simply try to see usual things under a unusual corner of sight. In Philosophy of a knife I tried to avoid all that I did for Nails and Visions of suffering. I dont know as far as well I have succeeded in it, but I wanted to make a realistic film as soon as it is possible. I did not want to do film of horror, I wanted to make a detailed historical film.

SS: After watching the clips and such for The Tourist, it seems that you are eventually going to make a film in almost every genre with your own surrealist flair, is there any truth behind that?

AI: It is very possible, that so it and is. Right now I would like to make a comedy. I'm probably a little tired of violence. To work with stages of violence is rather hard. Therefore the Philosophy of a knife is most my difficult and heavy project.

SS: Who were your film making influences? and how is the market for Cult/Gore films in Russia? It seems like an incredibly hard place to market films of your caliber.

AI: Who rendered the greatest influence on Philosophy of a knife? Buddhism, I think.
The released approach to death and violence has helped me to show that I have shown working on film. The Japanese from Unit 731 were Buddhists, besides others. Studying on Buddhism and Shintoism during work on the film has considerably expanded my outlook and has helped me to look at many things under another other corner of sight. For example from the point of view of Japanese. I did not want to make a film reflecting European mentality. I wanted to make a film close to the Japanese mentality. I think, that a surface of Mars would be a more successful market for films of horror than Russia. A shame for this country! I still can not look set of excellent films at all my efforts which you saw. I don't do entertaining films, therefore i am possibly the worst director for Russia. The horror movies are not entertainment for all family but only such films have here popularity. Fuck Russia!

SS: My only guess is that all of the violence in POAK is unflinching and is documented without the camera turning away, such as T.F. Mou's film Men Behind The Sun. Care to explain the process of the violence?

AI: I show violence without patriotism, even with cynicism and gloomy irony, with all details which you can see on place of crimes. If you will try to show murder in details, you will come besides to what I have come also. I never would use real murders of animals to make the film more effective. Any film in the world and any idea or true in the world do not cost murders or sufferings of animals. This does not have justifications and it is not necessary to try to search for them. They simply do not exist. Film can not become better if in it somebody kills in the real. It can become worse only. I do not have complexes in relation to display of violence to films, I dont get frightened with cinema violence in films. But I do not bear violence in real life. The violence in film demands as much attention how many statement of small performance or creation of a picture. Usually I write all key elements and details of a stage before I start to shoot on a paper. I in general never start to work, yet I shall not see the internal sight all main elements, signs of a concrete scene. More often those details which the spectator can be at all in detail undersign notices or does not pay to them any attention. But they are in film. And they make a basis of a stage.

SS: Fellow friend and star, Alexander Shevchenko, has been in all of your films so far? How did this friendship/business relationship begin?

AI: Alexander did music for all my films but acted in Nails and Visions of suffering only, he also has a cameo in The Tourist As TV news announcer. Also Alexander did amazing digital effects for my films, especially great work for POAK. I have got acquainted with him in 2000 or 2001, through net. He was the fan of horror, same as well as me and had casually read on the internet my review of Xtro. As it was the unique positive review of this film in Russian, he has written to me. All began from it. Then, I have found out, that he as successfully tries himself in the literature and is the professional artist. We loved the same films, therefore I have decided, that it will be better if we shall try to work together on my then project about people appeared in installed death which I have named Necro. Unfortunately, bastards from Moscow have deceived us and this project so never and were not filmed. After Visions of suffering and Nails we support contact through internet and we discuss work too through net. He developed digital effects in Kiev, Ukraine. I did render them in Khabarovsk, Russia, on the other end of the earth. We work on the Tourist precisely the same as and on Philosophy of a knife. Through net. The tourist became the first film in which besides his music will sound like music from other authors. So I have tried to adopt experience of use of music from such films Dario Argento as the Opera or the Phenomena.

SS: How long does the process of thinking of these bizarre plots take? For example, the "new" style of vampires shown in Visions Of Suffering.

AI: I have thought up the plot of Nails for 10 minutes and the script has written for three days. The Plot of Visions Of Suffering I have dreamed. So they havent borrowed a lot of time. Style of vampires was inspired by "men in black" real supernatural phenomena. Unfortunately I cant control the dreams to see as much as possible interesting plots. Its healthy has facilitated my work. But in general that, with everything, as to imagination I do not test special problems. I can imagine everything. Only on a plot of Philosophy of a knife I worked longly, as very attentively it was required to study set of original documents what to find points of a support and to size up own opinion. It is very important to have own opinion when you work above such difficult theme as the second world war and Unit 731. I saw one Russian documentary TV - film about Unit 731 and it was full shit. Typical propagation and pathos a syllable. I hate pathos and propagation.

SS: Have you ever thought about making a film based on the murders of the bolshevik's gulags death camps?

AI: Sometimes I think about it. And if someday somebody will offer to me make such project i shall not to refuse. Im sure, that I know about it more than any from the western directors. Only good script and very good actors is necessary. You know for example, that when prisoners run from camps in Magadan, they take with themselves the young and inexperienced prisoner whom named "cow" If fugitives water or meal come to an end, They kill him to drink his blood and eat his meat. This practice is kept till now and it is the naked truth.

SS: Well Andrey, We thank you very much for your time and patience. I can only barely hold back my excitement for viewing POAK and The Tourist. Anything you'd like to add before you go?

AI: The evil is not belonging of the Japanese race, it belongs to all mankind. People create evil without dependence from race, religions and preferences. Each person is potentially the murderer. Do not overlook about it when will look Philosophy of a knife.


Unknown said...

Can't wait until I receive my LE copy of POAK in the mail. I read it was limited to only 3000 copies. Even more excited about the signed and limited edition of the tourist...

A great interview with a great director/visionary. I can't believe he made nails on a budget of $ There is a special place for Andrey in this world and his hard work is paying off.

Phantom of Pulp said...

Fascinating interview with Iskanov.

I'm a fan of NAILS, too.

As I was writing his philosophy, I asked myself: Has Balabanov influenced him?

He is worth an interview, too.

His latest films, MORPHINE and CARGO 200 are gtrim but beautiful.