Following the screening of Sunstroke, Russian director Mikhalkov spoke about his film in the packed auditorium of the “Damned Yard” Movie Theater. Mikhalkov first discussed the theatrical distribution of his film, noting that he was glad that there was still the audience ready to watch a film with running time of three hours. He explained that in Russia, after a month of theatrical distribution, the movie was showed on TV, adding that it had great viewership. However, after a while, the film was returned to movie theaters following a high demand by the audience. Mikhalkov concluded that this in itself was the most important award for him.
Asked about the role of the artist in times of crisis, the Russian filmmaker answered as follows:
“The director is not a doctor. His work is not to help in a crisis situation. In addition to hope, faith and love, it is also good to create with one’s own hands. Courage is also important. Tamerlane the Great said that courage is only patience in a dangerous situation.”
Mikhalkov then spoke about his cooperation Svetolik Mića Zajc:
“Zajc is an ingenious film editor and his main quality is that he is not aware of it. In Sunstroke, he is a co-author of the film. He has great sensitivity but also, at the same time, a cold rationality by which he channels the sensitivity of the director.”
For Nikita Mikhalkov the essence of film directing lies in the atmosphere as well as in the frame, but also outside the frame:
“All the people in the team should believe that without them the film would not be possible. Unlike a theater actor, a film actor cannot receive energy from the audience but only from his or her partners and the crew. In this respect, directing is everything: starting from managing the household to running a country. A good director does not have to be a colorful and conspicuous personality. He can sometimes be inconspicuous during the shooting. When I was shooting the film 12 with eleven top actors, I was often invisible although I was the twelfth actor. The aim of directing is that everyone inside a frame should do what you want them to do and yet feel like they are doing what they themselves want to do.”
Speaking about the work with actors, Mikhalkov illustrated his point that the knowledge of psychology was decisive using examples from his own experience. He described a situation in which one of the actors from the movie 12 brought him 25 pages of text noting that he had written lines for a scene and for his character in the film.
“This was a very good text but too long. I told the actor that he had exactly one minute and twenty seven seconds to say these lines. He made an effort to manage this and thus we got an authentic monologue in the film by a man out of his mind.”
Responding from a question from the floor regarding homage and dedications in Sunstroke, the Russian director recalled Chekhov’s notion of a “personal theater”:
“Unless you have personal relationship with the film you are working on, it is boring. With film, you can greet persons who are no longer alive. In Sunstroke, you have a dedication to the famous staircase scene in Odessa from a movie by Eisenstein… There is also a scene on a steamship in which two girls seek an autograph from the writing thinking that he is Chekhov. This person is a writer but his name is Trigorin after a character from the play Seagull but this does not matter… This is my personal relationship with things I know very well.”