Petr Levchenko’s feature debut Curator is based on a real-life murder of a Russian government official and the ensuing manhunt for the killer, a Georgian businessman. Yet, according to the director himself, the film is a family drama and not the intense action film you might expect. Inspired by French thrillers, Curator is a meditative feature, shot in a documentary-like style. I sat down with the filmmaker at the Warsaw Film Festival to discuss his storytelling style and the ideas behind his first film.
Curator is based on a real-life crime. What in particular caught you eye about the story?
It’s was a strong story about a father-son relationship and the relationship I have with my own father is very emotional, so it touched me. I saw an interview with the real-life shooter’s son – there was a big fuss about this crime in Russia. He was sitting in a fancy restaurant, a wealthy guy with a huge golden watch on his wrist, talking about how his father was a great guy and how the people he killed were also good. And then, in the middle of this interview, he said something like, "Family is family, but business is business and it must continue" and it just seemed so strange. After that, I started writing the script. To me, it was all about heritage and what one generation leaves for the next one. Even if it seems like a criminal film, Curator is actually about family.
The original name of the film was Shooter, why did you change it to Curator?
Excuse me for such a grand example, but if you take Romeo and Juliet, you can’t call it Tybalt. The main characters will still be Romeo and Juliet. The curator is the most important character here, not the shooter.
What influenced your directional decisions?
Curator was influenced by Jean-Pierre Melville. But I don’t think the photography was influenced by anyone in particular – the camera was constantly moving because that’s how the story needed to be told. We needed to be closer to the protagonist because everything was happening around him and we had to watch the world through his eyes.
There was an intriguing scene where kids in kindergarten put on a play influenced by Greek tragedies. What inspired that?
Of course, Russian kindergarteners don’t put on plays based on greek tragedies. But I wanted to show a story that the viewers would be familiar with, so I wrote a small play using famous characters from mythology: Zeus, Athena and so on. And it was also connected to the bigger plot, because the Golden Fleece was taken to Colchis, which is now Georgia.
What kind of an audience were you making this film for?
I don’t know who my audience is, you would have to be a bit strange to enjoy the film – it’s very hard to watch and appreciate.