How does a filmmaker meet the challenges of depicting and dramatizing the complex and emotionally wrought condition of dementia? Slovenia-based, Bosnia-born writer-director Miroslav Mandić answered the challenge with Sanremo, which focuses on an elderly man named Bruno (Sandi Pavlin) living in a home for the elderly. Despite his increasing dementia, Bruno is capable of love and connection, which he finds with Duša (Silva Čušin), who is creating a collage art piece as part of her therapy. The pair’s strongest connection proves to be a pretty 1960s-era Italian tune, “Non ho l’età,” which Bruno first heard in the massively popular Sanremo music festival. The music, and other elements, elicit powerful memories for people who seem to live in a constant present.
The Hollywood Reporter contributor Robert Koehler interviews Mandic, via THR Presents, powered by Vision Media, to discuss the origins, creation and meaning of this intimate film, selected by Slovenia for the Oscar’s Best International Film consideration.
Mandic tells THR that the film was inspired by his visits to see an uncle, who was living an assisted home for the elderly in Zagreb, Croatia. “He had always been our family doctor,” Mandic says, “and I regularly visited him out of gratitude for everything he did for us growing up. I asked him one day if he could get out of his room and go to this beautiful garden I could see outside his window. We were sitting outside together, and I saw this image of him, with the sunshine and birds chirping, and he was smiling, appreciating all of it. This embrace with nature he was feeling was showing more promise than all of the therapies and medicines he was taking. That’s where Sanremo started.”
The filmmaker’s writing method is “intuitive,” he explains, adding that if he “were to think about not doing this or that, it would be reductive for me. My first draft involves little research. I leave it alone for a few weeks, and then if I think I really have something, I do serious research for a second draft that becomes the final script.”
Even with this research, Mandic notes that he relies more on images and sounds than dialogue to dramatize his ideas. “I have issues with words,” he says. “Whenever I have a chance of getting something across to viewers in a visual way, I take it.” He believes that this complements the film’s essence. “To me, this film is about relying on sheer emotion,” he adds. “Not only can Bruno and Duša not remember who they met yesterday, they can’t even rationalize. To me, that’s beautiful. Both of them rely now on pure emotion.”
Mandic himself grows emotional when realizing during this conversation that scenes between Bruno and his daughter are based on his own tense and loving experiences with his ailing mother. “This is a discovery for me, what (we just talked about.) I never realized it before just now. Wow.”
This edition of THR Presents is presented by Filmostovje and Incipit Film.