‘You do not want to be alone’ director Goran Stolevski breaks down his bloody fable about a witch changing body

There is a strange poetry to You do not want to be alone, Goran Stolevski’s debut as an instructor. It’s a movie with a few words but a lot of heart and (literally) courage, told in a dreamy voiceover from its protagonist: a young witch named Nevena, who changes shape by cutting her breast up and filling it with the entrails of another creature. Isolated in a cave throughout her childhood, Nevena must learn to be human by imitating. Her speech is broken but evocative. “It’s a burning, crushing thing, this world,” she repeats throughout the film. “A biting, miserable thing.” And yet her answer is one of awe: “My, my, my, my.”

While preparing to write You do not want to be alone, Stolevski had studied folk tales. This research eventually gave way to more historical narratives, many of which centered on women being accused of changing form – and by extension witchcraft.

“I mean, what an amazing perspective to look at humanity,” the director told The Daily Beast in a recent interview. “I wanted something that looked at life and people like this strange other thing, and looked at them in a very simple way without embellishing.”

Folklore flourishes permeate this film, which begins with a vengeful, charred witch who makes her mark on an infant Nevena. The baby’s mother asks the dreaded old girl Maria to let her keep the infant until she turns 16. But Nevena’s childhood is far from sweet; her mother keeps her isolated in a cave for protection, leaving her to grow up wild and (mostly) alone. That is, until she finally takes her first steps out into the outside world as a teenager.

Stolevski, long fascinated by research into wild children, cites Genie Wiley – who was discovered in California in 1970 – as an inspiration. He showed his actors a clip of 13-year-old Wiley appearing from her home as a reference video. “The way she behaves is destructive and beautiful and fascinating,” he said.

You do not want to be alone feels like a culmination of Stolevski’s earlier work, which favors female protagonists and outsider perspectives. The Australian-Macedonian instructor said that while working on this project, he actually had some real-life inspiration: He and his husband lived in England during the writing phase, an experience that made him “a migrant for the second time in my life. liv. liv. “

“It was fascinating to me that in England I was not treated like an Australian … but I was treated like some kind of dirty foreign Macedonian,” he said. Even in Macedonian society, Stolevski pointed out: “Being the gay boy who reads books is very different from the straight kids.” So yes, outsiders are a constant source of fascination.

It was fascinating to me that in England I was not treated like an Australian … but like some kind of dirty foreign Macedonian.

You do not want to be alone reunited the director with Sara Klimoska, who starred in his short film “Look at Her” in 2017. Stolevski credits the Macedonian actress who plays Nevena in her original form with being one of several “auteurs” on the film along with producer Kristina Ceyton, film photographer Matthew Chuang and production designer Bethany Ryan. Klimoska was present in virtually every stage of production, right down to location scouting, and she and Stolevski even committed to learning an almost dead language for the film.

“The film is in a particular dialect because I wanted to capture the way people spoke in this place in the 19th century,” Stolevski explained. “Both me and [Klimoska] comes from a region that is very close by. I had to study the dialect and somehow connect it with people I knew – my grandparents and things I knew. I needed to understand the rhythm of it. And then she did the same. “

Stolevski and Klimoska were the only ones on the set who knew the dialect, which hardly anyone can speak anymore. “We could improve in this ancient dialect because in a way we studied it in such detail,” he said. Each of the actors who would take over the role of Nevena – Noomi Rapace, Carloto Cotta and Alice Englert – received Klimoska’s voiceover recording in advance so they could prepare, and the actress herself dialogue-trained each of the new Nevenas before beginning filming.

But this story is not just about Nevena; while she is certainly the protagonist and the audience’s eyes into the film, the 200-year-old witch Old Maid Maria shoots big.

“The two main characters [Nevena and Maria] is a kind of me divided into two people, ”said Stolevski.

While Nevena moves through the world with big eyes and sensitivity, Old Maid Maria is just bitterness and bile. The exact origins of her burnt skin and cynical vision remain hidden until late in the film, but it is clear throughout that her anger at humanity is not unjustified. Somehow her community betrayed her. It is therefore no wonder that she does not trust anyone but herself and has little patience with her abducted daughter’s sentimentality.

Romanian actress Anamaria Marinca plays Old Maid Maria, who performs the role in two different languages. At times, when it affects a persona, the witch speaks Macedonian. But her real language, what she’s thinking about, is aromatic, an ancient nomadic language that is basically extinct.

Having a performer like Marinca embodied that demanding role was a thrill for Stolevski, who has been a big fan since seeing her in 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days. The director was fascinated by “her eyes and the worlds they contain” in the film, “and in this very simple setup, how much she can convey while being completely still and silent.” In fact, getting to work with the actress only reinforced Stolevski’s passion for her artistry. “I want her to be in a lot of my movies,” he said with a laugh.

As much as You do not want to be alone is about observing humanity as an outsider like Stolevski, the film’s reception has remarkably given its director the opposite experience.

“In some of the reviews I had read, there are some phrases that are almost literally notes I had written to myself in the margin that I have not even shared with anyone in the crew,” Stolevski said. “It’s really touching to see it because the film is so much about connection and how hard it is to maintain.”

It is a realization that all of us who constantly feel out of place make wise to remember: We are actually never really alone in that experience.

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