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Serhiy MASLOBOISHCHYKOV: “My Carmen is a tender woman; she just gets confused

04 December, 00:00

In the Kyiv and, more broadly, the Ukrainian cultural context, Serhiy Masloboishchykov is interesting primarily because of his versatility, his skill at doing so many things without damaging the play. He is one of the most interesting stage designers. Performances using his stage props and costumes are on at several Kyiv theatres. He is also the production designer of the most interesting full-length Singer Josephine and the Mouse People based on Kafka’s short stories and, of course, stage productions. He takes his time and work most meticulously. His is one of those cases when putting the finishing touches and the quality of the opus come first. Late this year after a long intermission, Masloboishchykov once again has forced critics to mention his name. After several successful production designs in Kyiv, he went to Budapest and did Carmen. Incredibly, his other full-length screen production, tentatively titled Wind Noise, is nearing completion. This news is especially welcome now that filmmaking in Kyiv is virtually impossible. We met in a cutting room at the Dovzhenko Studios where countless Wind Noise takes were assembled.

The Day: Let’s start with the play. Who did you work with?

Masloboishchykov: It’s a dramatic fantasy based on Prosper Merimee’s prose, Bizet’s music, Meliac’s and Halevy’s libretto, Spanish folklore, and Bizet’s letters to Merimee.

The Day: What was your personal role?

Masloboishchykov: I worked as author, stage director, and designer, including wardrobe. The music belongs to Bizet.

The Day: How much did you deviate from the textbook Carmen?

Masloboishchykov: In a way it is a story about the Carmen myth. I was interested in how that myth came to be, the details of the process. A rather banal story was destined to be come very significant and world-renowned. Why? I worked out my own formula. Everything we see and experience in this life means nothing until we fill all this with our own attitudes, until we load such events with our own meaning. Afterward this meaning turns into a different meaning, thus building a snowballing myth. Carmen is perhaps that kind of story. It is about a man and a woman bound by passion and constantly trying to cleanse themselves of various surrounding worlds, of all kinds of influences and motivations. Roughly speaking, they gradually get naked in the sense that they constantly cast away everything standing in the way of their affair. Yet the Carmen heroes are not fully masters of the situation. There is always a third party, even to a love affair between two. I mean God, to Whom such relationships also belong. In other words, their affair does not belong to them alone, while each wants to make that story their own. In the end everyone winds up losing.

The Day: What kind of Carmen did you produce? A woman of unbridled passion, a femme fatale?

Masloboishchykov: Certainly not. She is tender and confused.

The Day: What company did you work with in Budapest?

Masloboishchykov: The Magyar Szinhaz (Hungarian Theater), which built a new Broadway-type National Theater, meaning that casting is done for each new play, selecting actors from all Hungarian drama companies. The theater’s permanent cast is known as the Hungarian Theater. That’s the company I worked with.

The Day: Do you have information about the audience and media responses?

Masloboishchykov: I don’t know much, but what I do know indicates that the production was a success, although the language of the performance was rather unusual for the Hungarian theater; it relied mostly on metaphor.

The Day: In that case you might have problems with actors originating from the traditional school. Were you satisfied with the cast?

Masloboishchykov: Yes, quite, although we could have probably made the performance even better. The schedule was very tight, just six weeks to get everything done. Be it as it may, the cast coped with the main tasks effectively. Some did better than the others, perhaps they will do better later.

The Day: With your permission we will now discuss the cinematographic aspect of your career. I see that your second production is being edited and the process is drawing to a close.

Masloboishchykov: Yes, and I have to get it done by the end of the year, meaning next month. Everything’s practically ready.

The Day: Any changes in the original concept?

Masloboishchykov: It’s an entirely different picture. I’m even thinking of changing the title again.

The Day: What will it be, at least in terms of genre?

Masloboishchykov: I wouldn’t mind if they regarded the Wind Noise (let’s stick to this title for now) as a family drama. There are three main characters – a man, a woman, and a boy – a family of three. This triangle is crossed by others, there are different situations involving the characters, and life scatters them. Well, it’s also perhaps a story about betraying one’s inner world. We often believe that all our dreams will come true one day, yet we constantly postpone translating them into life until the time comes and we realize that nothing will ever happen. Moreover, one day we kill our own dreams. First, we turn them into phantoms, pushing them away from reality, and in the end we tire of those phantoms, they become a burden, so we just do away with them. That’s what my film is about.

The Day: Obviously, you worked as the playwright on both stage and screen.

Masloboishchykov: Yes, both are absolutely original versions. True, in the stage production I relied on certain texts and actively used existing music. But the picture has an altogether original plot, having nothing to do with any literary or music sources, except a small paraphrase from Goethe’s Der Erlkoenig (The King of the Elves), but this is rather a tribute to the plot, having nothing to do with Goethe’s text.

The Day: Considering the play and the film, you are most interested in personal relationships, a chamber drama in a narrow human circle.

Masloboishchykov: You’re exactly right. I try to distance myself from any large-scale social ideas and take a closer look at the individual, his inner life, specific emotional manifestations, dreams, and reflections. I find this most interesting, the more so that the world is changing and things like that are losing their meaning. In reality, everything in life stems precisely from that inner space, from the first little saplings, from the experience of the individual person.

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