"Real artists are always face to face with death", interview made the day before the opening of the Opera "Time of the Gypsies" in Paris, published in Le Monde.

52 years old, after nine full-length films and two Gold Palms in Cannes, the Serbian musician and director Emir Kusturica brings for the Opéra of Paris his first setting on a lyric scene. It's the world creation in scenic version of the famous film Time of the Gypsies, shot by Kusturica in 1988, which won the Jury Prize in 1989, in Cannes. Exclusively interpreted by Serbian musicians, this “punk opera” is sung in gypsy language.

We met the director at a few days before the first.

  • Emir Kusturica, how did you elaborate the musical project of Time of the Gypsies ?
    • Emir Kusturica : It's a first experiment for me, and at the same time a single project, because it's not a simple musical transposition of the film. We are here in a theatre, and the rules of the game are very different from those of the cinema. The stage looks more for me like a circus, which requires that truth artists are always face-to-face with death.
      I have myself the feeling to belong to this medium. With my art, I always risked my life, because I always pushed back the limits, sometimes in a very paradoxical way and the doubt in the heart. I am not these directors who conform to the desideratas of the cinema industry, wait for the journalists and flatter the public opinion.
  • But you chose to adapt to the stage one of your greatest successes from the cinema ?
    • EK : Of course, I hope that the show will benefit from the popularity of the film. But there's no minimal risk. I can fail very well. In 1989, people loved film, they will hate me perhaps here. We are in an empty space, and it is necessary to give the illusion of a reality. But, in order to have this reality becomes art, it's necessary to start again of zero, to reorganize space and time.
  • By the way, you haven't taken the music of Goran Bregović, with whom you haven't any more worked more since Arizona Dream (1993) and Underground (1995). Is it because you are angry with him ?
    • EK : One of the musics used by Goran Bregović in film for the Day of Saint-Georges is a traditional gypsy song. It lasts more than ten minutes. As for the synopsis, which was worked over again starting from the scenario, we had to musically recreate the scenes which are adapted to the stage. I thus asked three composers, Dejan Sparavalo, Nenad Jankovic, and my son, Stribor Kusturica, drum player in the No Smoking Orchestra, to compose a new score. As for the actor singers, they all come from an organization which deals of folk music in Serbia.
  • You are at the same time a musician and a man of images. What brings you the specificity of the opera ?
    • EK : When you go up in the history of cinema, you realize that almost everything comes from the opera. But here, we are closer to the musical than to the opera. The most difficult, on this huge stage of La Bastille, is to organize the space with all the characters, the actors on the stage, who play, sing and dance, and two orchestras: my traditional “musicians” of No Smoking Orchestra and the traditional musicians of the Garbage Serbian Philharmonia. That makes a lot of people, but technically, I have million possibilities. Nevertheless, I don't think that it will influence my cinema.
  • Isn't the opera a way of revivifying an inspiration that some consider tired at the time of the presentation of your film Promise me this, in May at the Festival of Cannes ?
    • EK : You know, all the directors know some periods when people, and especially the critics, say to them: “Too much is too much.” My last film, Promise me this, had also very good critics and I'm persuaded it will make a good career on the screens. I am a little bit like a good boxer, I promise to you that I will leave the stage before I'm being put KO.
  • Is there a certain nostalgia of your youth in the fact of having chosen Time of the Gypsies ?
    • EK : No, I am not nostalgic. On the other hand, I think that this type of social comedy corresponds well to the policy of Gerard Mortier with the Opéra of Paris. This film, I made it when I left Yugoslavia, thus it cannot be question of an unspecified reconciliation.
      For remainder, I've recreated in Serbia, in the mountains of Mokra Gora, for the needs for the shooting of Life is a miracle (2004), an old wooden village, Küstendorf (literally “village of arts”1)), which became my own city. I do not believe any more in the democracy. I am a self-acclaimed mayor who chooses his citizens and tries to rebuild a social life according to the rules of altermondialism, ecology and art. With this Time of the Gypsies, I only hope to reach the top of my musical career.

Interview by Marie-Aude Roux, translation by Matthieu Dhennin

1) the journalist is wrong since Küste means “coast” in German, when it's Kunste which means “art”. So Küstendorf should be literally translated as “village on the coast” and not “village of arts”
en/itv_07-06_lemonde.txt · Last modified: 2008/02/12 23:38 by matthieu1