Daria Kashcheeva (2019)

Simple embraces bookend years of pain in the relationship between a man and his daughter. Glances and gestures speak volumes in this silent stop-motion drama from Kashcheeva, who made the film at Prague’s famed FAMU school.

Kashcheeva: I wrote this story four years ago for my entrance exams to FAMU. At that time, I was really interested in psychology — I was thinking a lot about how childhood influences our behaviour. I wrote it really fast, in a few days, because when I started to think about my childhood, I remembered some moments which had maybe been in my subconscious.

When I passed the exams, I left this story, because the first two years of study were really intensive. At the end of the second year, I started to think what my bachelor’s film would be about, and I remembered this story. I developed it into a script. I worked on it for a year and a half; it was a kind of psychotherapy for me.

I didn’t know how it was going to end at first, but during animation, as I was thinking about my relationship with my parents, I understood that it’s important to forgive. Forgiveness can change our past, our memories. That’s why there’s this hug at the end. I realized that I didn’t want the father to die.

Jiří Kubíček and Anna Vášová, well-known writers in the Czech Republic, teach screenwriting at FAMU. At the beginning I asked them for advice. We also consulted with teachers in the editing department — my husband is the editor on the film. They made suggestions, but always ensuring that my ideas came through. The film starts in the hospital, then you see the daughter’s memories, then the ending is in the hospital again. Anna gave some really good advice: to return to the hospital in the middle of the film, too.

We discussed language from the start, as it’s a Czech film and I feel annoyed when I need to read subtitles — in animation, there’s a lot to look at. An extra reason was that I wanted the puppets to be papier mâché, and I really didn’t know how to make them [speak]. Also, I was thinking how misunderstandings in relationships happen because people couldn’t talk to each other. For the dramaturgy, it was good that the characters couldn’t talk.

I love documentaries and this “imperfect” aesthetic in live action — like Dogme films, Lars von Trier, the Dardenne Brothers. I thought this aesthetic could work very well for my story. I didn’t know how to create it in animation, so I studied von Trier’s Breaking the Waves frame by frame, then made tests. We made a teaser and got really good feedback from professionals. I realized I’d found a good aesthetic for the story, to make the viewer feel it more, get them deeper into it.

I didn’t discuss the film with my relatives [while making it]. With my parents, we don’t discuss emotions and so on. I thought I might hurt them if I asked questions about our relationship. I decided that my work on the film was going to be my own thinking about all my feelings. When I showed my parents the film, they still didn’t talk about our relationship, but they told me they thought the film, and its ending, were really great. I think something really changed in our relationship. We talked through the film.

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