A Night Too Young: a successful start for Slovenian director Omerzu

'A Night Too Young', photo: Altcine

It’s not every film student that gets his premiere at the International film festival in Berlin, to be sure, but such was the fortune of Olmo Omerzu, a FAMU graduate from Ljubljana, Slovenia, and our guest in this week’s Arts. His graduate film called A Night Too Young (Příliš mladá noc) had its world premiere in the Forum section of the Berlinale, which generally selects highly original, highly provocative works. A Night Too Young is both of those things: a story of a party of three consternated adults, shared by two twelve-year-old boys, who have no idea that they are about to grow up fast. We met with Olmo Omerzu this week, on the occasion of the film’s domestic premiere, and asked him first of all about his Czech connection came to be.

'A Night Too Young',  photo: Altcine
“It was mostly only because of FAMU. In Slovenia we have this big tradition that a lot of film students have studied at FAMU, so the school is quite a big thing in Slovenia.”

How did FAMU gain such renown in Slovenia?

“It comes from the days of Yugoslavia, when all these generations of directors such as Emir Kusurica, or the Slovenian director of photography Vilko Filać – really famous people who studied at FAMU in the 1960s and 70s.”

A Night Too Young was a graduate film, but you managed to extend it to 65 minutes and got it in to the Berlinale. The right people must have seen the promise of this film from the beginning.

“Yes, this was not a typical FAMU film because we had a co-production with Endorfilm, FAMU and also a Slovenian Producer, so we had the opportunity to make a feature film. Normally we only make short films in FAMU. So it was quite important for us all.”

How far will you be able to take it; will it go into general distribution elsewhere in Europe?

“We have distributors in Germany, Slovakia and Slovenia, so it’s quite a big success I think.”

Olmo Omerzu,  photo: Altcine
At the basic level, it’s a film about two 12-year-olds who are involved in a party of adults. How did you come upon that theme?

“The film is based on a script by Bruno Hájek, and then Jakub Felcman and I re-wrote it. So the first idea came from a story that Bruno’s friend told him happened one day after New Year’s Eve. It’s based on a true story actually, but we made it into fiction.”

What did you change and why? What did you want to be there that wasn’t originally?

“For example the motivations of the characters, more about their love relations and about the power games that are going on in the constellation of relationships. So we made it into a more psychological movie. The first draft of the script was more grotesque in a way. So these were the main changes.”

What was it like for you as a young director take on such a heavy topic? As a student, were you not worried at all about getting into something so deep?

“Not so much. I always find it interesting to try to do more psychological movies and hard topics. But in another way, it’s not a comedy but it does have a lot of grotesque sequences and there is a lot of sarcasm, so at the Berlinale, for example, the audience was often laughing, which made me quite happy – that they were able to see these funny situations too and not only the tragedy.”

'A Night Too Young',  photo: Altcine
This is something I often notice in Czech audiences, that the more tragic the scene the louder the laughter can be. Have you also had that experience?

“Yes, sometimes, but this was also our intention. We were working with this really tiny borderline: when you’re doing intense, tragic situations there is always a thin borderline from comedy. And I know this so I was working with it also.”

Would you say it is a Czech or a Slovenian film, or both, or what are the influences?

“It’s interesting: when I show the film in the Czech Republic or to Czech audiences they usually say that it is not Czech, that they don’t feel this Czech atmosphere – which they also said about the work I did previously at FAMU. And when I show it in Slovenia they say it’s not a Slovenian movie and that they see nothing in common with Slovenian films. So I don’t know where to put it.”

Do you feel that you have been influenced by Czech cinema in the last five years that you have lived in the Czech Republic?

“Even before I went to FAMU I was interested in the Czech New Wave in the 1960s, for example I was, and am still, a big fan of the films of Věra Chytilová and Jan Němec. So they were and still are big influences for me.

'A Night Too Young',  photo: Altcine
“One thing I really appreciate about FAMU was that we were only concentrating on the artistic aspects of film. I think this is a quite radical way of teaching film, other people have problems with the fact that at FAMU there is no commercial cinematography, that you study only auteur filmmaking. I think this is really important because it is not common in Europe, where there is always this sentiment that at school you should learn everything, commercial basics and the basics of the language of film, and not so much this auteur filmmaking. And this is also problematic, because it is not to easy to get the money from the film industry for radical things. So for me, it was really important to have this artistic study.”

The episode featured today was first broadcast on March 16, 2012.