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Better, more beautiful and tolerant

Meet Dasha Feklenko, a film director and actress. Daria discusses her 2022-2023 television series with Art&signatures’s Irina Vernichenko.

As a filmmaker Daria is committed to “all-embracing”, life-teaching cinema. Her characters always have style.

Irina Vernichenko: What makes the art of directing contemporary television series?

Daria Feklenko: Television series in Russia is a complicated genre nowadays. On the channels in Russia there are historical series, there are “women’s series” with family topics, professional series e g about medicine, detectives and so on.

My works reflect universal problems. I chose for myself the “all-embracing cinema”, life- teaching films, cinema films as an illustration of lives that not everyone can live.

In Europe and the US, women have slightly more freedom. In Russia There are capitals such as Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Kazan, where there exists a certain life aesthetic and there are small provincial areas. These are completely different women, but we make movies that will be liked by and resonate with a diverse audience. Evidently, women living in capitals have internships, yoga, culinary shows. Of course, those living on the outskirts can afford all of these, but nevertheless it is is inside a person – some want to get out and become a step higher, some do not.

As for the stories that I want to go into directing, these are mostly women’s stories. My biography- biography of an actress, a woman, a film director (the sequence of words could be changed)  is such that I finally understood that I am a film director who is interested in making films about  life, about relationships, conflicts, family conflicts and at work, conflicts of man and society and the world. They say: » make a film about what you know».

After graduating from the MHAT Moscow Art Theater Studio school, the best school of theatrical art, I was a theater actress, I was in movies, on TV, in TV series, I was a TV presenter. By the time I came to directing, I had gained life experience and acting experience, which allowed me to position myself as a person with experience.

 I have seen a lot of film directors and this experience helps me to see what a director can give as an aid to an actor, when he performs roles.

IV: A.Tarkovsky’s and Bergman’s cinema is about separation of art and life — do you agree with separation?

DF: There may be fantastically interesting life stories, they may be very colorful paradoxical, but still these stories, let’s call them documentary, cannot be told directly, there must be a share of artistic fiction of this kind, there must be an idea to show that it is possible to be better, more beautiful, more tolerant. It must be shown through an event, which entailed changes in the heroine, this will be interesting for the viewer to watch. An such an event can be completely paradoxical.

IV: You said “ better, more beautiful, more tolerant” how does it correspond to “post-feminism”, to the “just do it” women?

DF: Sometime long ago, we believed that “being determines consciousness”, in actual fact, the state of ‘being’ definitely exists. If one was to drive 50 or 100 kilometers from Moscow or St. Petersburg, there is an entirely different social circle, completely different needs. For millennia, women, at least in Russia, and these words are not banality, “will stop a galloping horse, enter a burning hut”, a woman was always an important driving force. They had kids, husbands who worked a lot and drank a lot, or did not drink, but were consumed by their work. The household, the kids’ upbringing, and development came from a woman. This is not a hymn to feminism, rather a manifestation of the pure nature of a woman: you cannot leave a child hungry, impossible to leave the house not cleaned.

I V: And why are you interested in this? You are a Moscow actress, you lived in the art world, what is the reason for the interest in these topics?

DF: This is related to my life experience. We all come into the world free, open, unspoiled, then life begins. Life is very interesting, life is much richer than our fantasies.

I was born in a wealthy family, I was taken abroad early, I was in India with my grandparents, my grandfather was an attaché in India. I had all the opportunities, all kinds of beauty.

My mother is an actress in the Moscow theater ”Satire”. I was lucky I had a very broad picture of the world. I was offered several opportunities, I could enter an Institute of interpreters and become an interpreter and not think about anything, marry some capable and promising person, and go to the embassy.

I always wanted to be myself. I watched theater performances, I was lucky to be at backstage of the theater “Satire”, where my mother used to bring me, I saw what it was like to go on the stage. To go on stage is like you take a step and you have no way back, are you sick or healthy, good condition or bad, you have to show and fulfil emotions and each next performance is not like the previous one, you are standing there, you are playing an absolutely “bare nerve” in front of 1,200 spectators.

This experience combined with me into the fact that I became interested in the fate of my mother’s friends, the fate of my mother’s friends began to pass right in front of me, they were very interesting, either actresses, poets, theatre critics, playwrights, or women film directors, I had something to compare with, I had something to talk about, what to strive to reach.

Now I am offered a creative evening. I would tell why I stand on this stage: there were supportive teachers from the Moscow Art Theatre (MKhAT) and there were teachers who did not accept me into the first year at the theatre institute,”broke”me in my ambitions, and there were parents who existed in life and in the profession, so I always watched them and was proud of them.

Then my biography happened, a completely different life began. Therefore all I want to show the audience, is to show that any problem is solvable, it is solved worse, better, but it is solved.

I don’t allow myself to say for a single second that my life has failed no, this is my life, these are my challenges, these are my interests. My previous biography is what led to me now being faced with these questions.

IV: Through music and verbalization, the viewer is invited to visual image. Do you agree?

DF: Undoubtedly, there are both verbal and visual aspects. I think in terms of scenes, the script is an empty piece of paper that reads: “he came in, he said…” Then the work goes on: how did he enter, what does he have in his hand? A cap? If he is angry, he threw it, and this is the visualization of his entry to the scene, the start of his relationship with another character. this is writing a movie.

IV: What is the style in cinema? How does it change?

DF: Given my acting experience, I believe that in a woman’s style the focus is on details. For example, if a woman wears a scarf, a kerchief, it can be tied in different ways. There are things that are “eternal” that can be the right classics with elements of modernity in my opinion. When I bring out the heroine, I have disputes with actresses, for instance, not everyone wants to wear earrings. I believe that a woman should wear earrings, and hairstyles need to change.

 If at the beginning of the series, a woman is exhausted, tired, not very happy, the heroine’s transformation should be visual.

 The style can be different, people who watch the films could afford it. They could afford it not financially, but they should have interest for it. Some can go in, for example, a dress and sneakers and some cannot.

As for the style of the movie, much of modern cinema is being shot through some beautiful plans, mirrors, halftones, and through the right montage: an angry hero grabs the door handle to leave the house, then the car door closes, such shooting rapidly immerses the viewer in the film. The world is developing rapidly, there should not just be a well-told story, it should even make you think, and the picture should be modernistic.

IV: What is modernity’s main nerve?

DF: I think this is a problem of parenting children. Children became more interesting, more advanced, and more developed at some moment in time.

IV: What is a true work of art, a truly great work?

DF: I think every artwork is different, you look and are enamored by the subject, the paint palette, the century when the artwork was created, something comes from your prior experience, for instance one should like the Mona Lisa.

As I am looking at paintings, watch films, I start asking myself questions: «how did this happen?», «how did this become possible?», «what was the artist thinking about?» Then I apply it to myself and receive only this – the brighter the impression, the more it resonates with me.

IV: K.Malevich talked about the brightness of colors in the villade as compared to the black and white urban clothing, do you agree?

DF: The village is where people are closer to nature, flowers grow, poppies grow, sunflowers, it’s a “riot” of colors: . You milk a cow, milk is white, the earth is black..

In the city asphalt is grey, a car has passed  during the rain, this is the eye-catching shine. This shine is  unnatural, these sequins are tinsel…

IV: What do you film: the city or the village?

DF: Both the city and the village. I am making is a film about a girl socially adapted to the city and very modern, who happens to be in a village. It is very close to me as I haven’t been to the village yet, I haven’t milked a cow, I haven’t seen chickens running away…

Daria Feklenko
Actress, film director