“The art of cinema is slowly fading”

Jean-Luc Godard called him the “Kazakh Bresson”. Darezhan Omirbayev, 64, is a rare filmmaker, the author in thirty years of ten films. He trained at VGIK, the prestigious Moscow film school, then stood out with a first feature film, Kairat (1992), who leaves Locarno with the Silver Leopard. The man is like his films: not very talkative, weighing the slightest word, providing a melancholy vision of the world and his profession. After transposing Tolstoy (Shugaaccording to Anna Karenina, in 2007) and Dostoyevsky (The Studentaccording to Crime and Punishmentin 2012) in contemporary Kazakhstan, he returns with poeta film of more modest appearance – a few days in the life of a poet – which nevertheless raises an essential question: what use can poetry still be in our desperately prosaic world, won over to the cult of commodities? ?

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Where did you get the idea for this film about the disappearance of poetry?

The idea comes from a short story by Hermann Hesse, Autorenabend (Author’s evening). He recounted his own experience as a guest writer in a small provincial town to give a public reading to which no one came. This problem of meeting with the public has always existed, it is just that it arises today in even more acute terms. I could just as well have taken a musician or a director as a character, but I chose a poet, a Kazakh-speaker moreover. Because the disaffection for literature is correlated to the fact that the “small languages” in the world are being undermined and that more and more of them are disappearing every day.

The strongest image of the film is, in fact, the empty room which awaits the young poet like a disappointment. Doesn’t it crystallize more broadly the situation of auteur cinema?

The cinema as an industry is currently doing very well and is finding new outlets in the proliferation of screens. But it is the art of cinema, the “cinematograph”, as Robert Bresson called it, which is gradually being neglected and slowly fading away. Many very good films are made in the world today, but very few are cinematographic.

One of the paradoxes of Didar, the poet, is to persist in writing in a world where communication is mainly done through images. Why, as a filmmaker, pay so much attention to these screens, which you sometimes film for a long time?

Simply because they are ubiquitous in our daily lives, it would have been strange to evacuate them. All these little gadgets are the first signs of our time, even before automobiles. And if we are interested in what people watch on these gadgets, the film then reaches another level, as if it suddenly plugged into the unconscious of society. This is why I reserve certain tracks for the protagonist’s dreams, which open onto the mystery of creation as well as this wandering zone of the mind where poetic images are formed.

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