The screenplay I’ve found pictures of giant machines on the Internet and wondered what they were, then I started to work through the issue. The screenplay writing process is not that simple: you don’t sit and think about what to write. There are separate themes, images, even dialogues that are spinning in one’s head, and then suddenly they merge into some- thing altogether.
I wrote the first draft on the third year of my studies. Since then, it was constantly refined — Sokurov gave me advice on the literature to read and the artists whose works I should see in order to understand the omens and characters of that time. The characters’ speech is also important. It’s not reconstructed word for word, but the intonation, the accent and certain words that create flavor are preserved.
The story There are several topics that are intertwined in the picture. On one hand, I was interested in the First World War as the trigger that led to the tragedies of the 20th century in the country’s history. On other hand, the issues about people who had to endure revolu- tions, Civil war, repressions and the Great War. We must look at the beginning in order to un- derstand it. In addition, the movie gives the perspective of how the war being the most dis- gusting, terrible and ugly phenomenon — gives one the opportunity to show attractive qualities: brotherly feelings for each other to describe the circumstances in which feelings are born, how they grow and what they lead to.
Casting We were looking for the main character for a very long time. If you take a look at the photos of that period you will see that people were different. Their way of life, hunger, hard work, even the fact that in the evenings they didn’t live in bright light, but with a torch — all this left an imprint on one’s body shape, muscular system and the face. Modern chil- dren, especially in large cities, are well-fed: they play games with their gadgets, their parents take them to school. This is all evident in the nuances. We needed a man with a sense of destiny behind — a boy with a meaningful adult sight. In this story he’s kind, gentle and naive. It was important that he reached out to people, was sincere and open. Everything came together in Volodya Korolev, whom we found in St.Petersburg.
The plot of the film is constructed like a mosaic — there is a gallery of characters with whom the protagonist interacts. Therefore, other participants were selected carefully: we searched at the factories and in military schools, where people are far from modern day of hectic atmosphere. Certainly some professional actors also participating in the movie.