Roderick Warich’s debut feature 2557 is a Thailand-set genre hybrid, combining dreamlike sequences with a thriller ambience. At the 33rd Warsaw Film Festival, where the film screened in the International Competition, the director spoke to us about inventing one’s own style and searching for truth.
Monika Gimbutaitė: How did you come to set 2557 in Thailand?
Roderick Warich: There are a couple of reasons why it’s set in Asia. I grew up watching Honk Kong movies so I was very interested in that environment. And Thailand is still a very rural society. Rice is the main export there, but at the same time they have Bangkok, which seems like a city from Blade Runner’s set – it has this sci-fi atmosphere, at least for Europeans. This rural culture is also very much connected to Buddhism that’s influenced by ghost culture. Thailand is kind of in the past and in the future at the same time.
How did you develop the script?
There wasn’t a script per se, only an outline. I had blocks of narrative that I pushed around. But I was more interested in portraying experiences, trying to catch something that’s not scripted and not narrative-based.
I wanted to see a westerner drowning in a pool that is surrounded by poor people. The idea of capitalist culture that is also patriarchal, the idea of guys going to Thailand to pay girls to have sex with them really disgusted me. And that’s where I started. But if you look closer, you can see that most of the characters from the other culture are also losers. Eventually you start to lose hatred and begin to look at the system with a certain coldness.
The film changes its tone quite a few times – from drama to thriller, and from thriller to a more meditative journey.
I wanted to do something non-narrative for people who wouldn’t normally watch similar stuff to, or sit twelve hours through, a Lav Diaz film, but who still might get something out of its meditative side. Also, the film is supposed to feel like electronic music. I was talking a lot about Arca, the electronic music producer, whose music changes all the time as if it was a creature. I wanted to see if I could do something similar in my film.
There are two things that interest me in cinema: the dream-like quality and something that feels very much in the moment. That’s why the film jumps between the narrator – you can just sit with her in the streets of Bangkok and be there – and going into a dream state. At the same time, we had the idea of turning time into steam. That’s why I chose the ambient soundtrack, that’s how this dream state felt to me.
How did you approach working with a non-professional cast?
I can’t say what made me choose them, they just have that something. Actors, on the other hand, are like empty vessels, they try to fill themselves with their characters. Robert Bresson wrote that there is a certain truth that you may capture in a non-actor, the truth that you can never capture in a professional actor. And I believe that.
The way the camera is positioned most of the time sets a frame of tension. In certain scenes I just let the actors ramble for hours and tried to find something that felt real, in other scenes I was following their tempo. And sometimes they really didn’t know what was going on.
And in many scenes we can’t hear the dialogue.
I’m not a verbal person and I don’t really believe in words. I believe that the atmosphere itself creates truth and the words are just noise. Human communication is noise [laughs].
FIPRESCI Young Critics Warsaw Project
Călin Boto is a Romanian emergent film critic and the editor-in-chief of Film Menu, a film magazine edited by students of the Film University in National University of Film and Drama in Bucharest (UNATC). He has written articles for several cultural publications such as Dilema Veche,Dissolved Magazine, SUB25 and he coordinates Film Menu’s weekly cineclub. At the moment he’s working on a bachelor's degree on the films and film criticism of Jonas Mekas.
Barbara Majsa was born and raised in Hungary, but currently resides in Sweden and attends Stockholm University for Cinema Studies. She has worked as a journalist since 2009, and has covered several film festivals. Barbara is the managing editor at Cinema Scandinavia, where she interviews film-makers and focuses her work on artistic and cultural products that reflect upon society - films concerning social, societal, economic and political issues.
Yulia Kuzischina is a film journalist, based in Moscow. She studied visual culture at Higher School of Economics and later started to write for two film-related websites, RussoRosso and Kinomania.ru. Currently she also works at a film sales company Ant!pode Sales & Distribution. Her main field of interest is Eastern European cinema.
Tomáš Hudák is a programmer and a film critic based in Bratislava, Slovakia. Programming at independent cultural centre A4 – Space for contemporary culture, which focus on challenging and experimental art, is his main occupation throughout a year. He is also associated with IFF Cinematik in Pieštany, Bratislava IFF, and Film Festival 4 Elements in Banská Štiavnica. Regularly writing for film magazine Kinečko, his texts also appeared in other publications such as Senses of Cinema, Tess Magazine etc. In past, he worked as a film archivist at Slovak Film Institute and his archival research resulted in two papers on local film history.
Daria Badior is a film critic and a Culture Editor of LB.ua, one of Ukraine’s biggest online newspapers. Focuses on writing about contemporary Ukrainian cinema. Also she co-curates a project on LB.ua named Short-list about young Ukrainian filmmakers. Since 2017 takes part in selecting films for Kyiv Film Critics Week, a new film festival held at the end of October. A member of FIPRESCI.
Łukasz Mańkowski Half of the Asian Cinema focused blog ‘Referat Filmowy’, Japanese Studies and Film Theory graduate from Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, specializing in Asian Film. Occasionally photographer, translator and theatre-film journalist who simply loves ramen. Previously member of 5 Flavours Film Festival People’s Jury, FEFF Udine Student Campus and EIFF Student Critics Competition.
TUTORS of FIPRESCI Young Critics Warsaw Project
Yoana Pavlova is a Bulgarian writer, researcher, and programmer currently based in Paris.Her field of work includes cinema, VR, digital culture, and the New East. She is the foundingeditor of Festivalists.com (a playform for experimental media criticism), with bylines fornumerous print and online publications in Bulgarian, English, and French. Contributor to thefollowing books: Cinemas of Paris (2016, St Andrews Film Studies), Eastern Promises (2014,Festival Internacional de Cine de Donostia – San Sebastián), The Bulgarian Nouvelle Vague(2012, Edno).
Tommaso Tocci is based in Italy, where he works as a film critic and translator covering filmfestivals across Europe for international publications. He has also worked for BerlinaleTalents and for the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and he currently serves as Co-Programmer for the Saas-Fee Film Festival in Switzerland.