Manaki Brothers

Anthony Dod Mantle is one of the world`s most famous names in cinematography with a renowned film portfolio, a name featured as a cinematographer in the closing credits of film such as “The Celebration”, “Another Round” (Thomas Vinterberg), “Dogville”, “Manderlay”, “Breaking the Waves”, (Lars von Trier) “Trainspotting”, “28 days Later” “Slumdog Millionaire”, (Danny Boyle), winner of the Academy Award and the British BAFTA Award.

However, Anthony`s greatness is even more significant because he differs from the rest of the conventional self-conceited Hollywood stars and, in his own words, he is not a slave to stereotypes. He considers himself to be a globetrotter who belongs on European soil. During the Manaki Brothers International Film Festival in Bitola, I took the opportunity to talk with him and learn more about his way of thinking.

Can you tell us something more about how you started filmmaking, how did you achieve your current success, did your mother, who is a painter, influence you, or was it maybe your brother, who is a writer? Or maybe the reason is of a completely different nature?

I always had immense support from my parents in anything I embarked on, including my beginnings as a market cashier and later on when I had the first sparks for the camera. They constantly encouraged me and repeated to me that you can get to the top only through constant work, and today I pass on that beautiful habit to my son with the same enthusiastic fervour. To improve your professionalism, I would mention Maradona, who juggles fantastically and then torpedoes the opponents` goals, or maybe Michael Phelps.

In one of the scenes of the movie “Slumdog Millionaire” directed by Danny Boyle, I noticed the Rembrandt-like chromatic undertones, but also one mise-en-scene reminded me of “Chariots of Fire” by Hugh Hudson, while the associative theme made me think of Vangelis’s chords – is this a coincidence or the real reason according to you?

I must admit you have a sharp eye, I remember that scene from “Chariots of Fire” well and there is some mysticism that I cannot fully reveal in my intimacy, while Rembrandt is one of my favorite painters and aspects of his work are reflected in my habitus, it stimulates me, it gives me an impulse of the inspiring power to create beautiful things, and it is part of the mosaic of art that makes it perfect.

I would not be able to bypass the movie “The Celebration”, which, according to me, is one of the best movies from the anthological oeuvre of Thomas Vinterberg, where the author skillfully exposes the dark secrets of the family that initially seem to be harmless and happy, but in fact under all the hypocrisy we see the real face and doings of the self-righteous despotic parents who reign over their children as if they were puppets on a string.

Tell us a little more, how did the filming process with Thomas Vinterberg go, while the second part of my question refers to the incredible stoicism and courage that Thomas found in himself, because despite the tragedy he experienced during the filming of “Another Round”, (he lost his daughter in an accident) he still decided to finish the shooting of the film and in doing so, like Prometheus, he freed himself from the chains by deservedly winning the Acadeny Award in the Best International Film Category (Best Foreign Language Film) as well as the European Film Award for the best film – where did this courage of his stem from?

He was surrounded by a lot of love all of the time, and you hit the spot because “The Celebration” is my favorite movie. We deeply respect each other with Thomas, he was one of the best students, but more recently we have not worked together because over time our ideas started unfolding in different ways. I remember well, I was in New York when his daughter died, it was nighttime when he called me, I caught the first plane back and arrived in Copenhagen, and he warmly welcomed me. He held his younger daughter in one arm, and with the other hand he said hi to me, I couldn`t hold back my tears and I started crying.

On the list of important directors with whom you have collaborated is the name of one of the most important representatives of the “Dogme” movement, the great Lars von Trier who is recognizable for the films “Breaking the Waves”, “Dancer in the Night” and “Europa” (my favorite film from his filmography), but I would like you to tell me in more detail about the masterpieces of “Dogville” and “Manderlay”, where your skillful and precise vivisection comes to the fore, and from the masterclass you held, you put a significant rhetorical emphasis on the struggle with the depressive agony on the one hand and the battle with the demons, on the other, that Lars is going through, so tell us what the work process was like on the films you worked on together?

Basically, the conditions during the shooting were excellent, we had a huge playground at our disposal,and I had all the prerequisites for creative power, which is a definitely a recipe for final success.

I felt special satisfaction during the filming of “Dogville” and “Manderley”, I was happy and fulfilled, while I also managed to create an interaction with the audience.

In your portfolio there are a lot of movie stars that you have worked with, but can you still single out someone who is very dear to your heart, and who you would like to work together with again?

Hmmm… Probably, off the top of my head, I would say the beautiful Nicole Kidman, who has a heart of gold and is always flexible when shooting, but I am very sorry that she joined the army of modern aesthetic surgery devotees, and botox destroyed her beautiful face. She is an irresistible person with an extraordinary sense of humor, and I got convinced in her magnificent talent during the filming of “Dogville”, but I also had a nice experience with Bryce Dallas in “Manderlay”.

Of course, I would also mention the Irish charmer with a sensitive character, Cillian Murphy, whose talent Ken Loach always glorifies in his interviews, and the most important actors for me are Stellan Skarsgård and William Dafoe.

I would like to share some important facts with you, since you have a solid knowledge of film art, I can tell you from the testimonies of my colleagues who have worked with Tarantino that he is very difficult to work with as an author.

During our conversation, I keep coming back to one question: is there a feeling of nostalgia taking over you, since you have lived in Denmark for many years?

I belong to the world of honesty, I am not part of egos, arrogance, selfishness and self-centeredness. I like some English people, and those would be my relatives, my brother and my friends.

Apart from being a world-renowned cinematographer, you are essentially a very humble, down-to- earth person which is a rare phenomenon, and at the same time a philanthropic globetrotter, but have you ever been to Macedonia before?

This is my second visit to Macedonia, but I am enchanted by the friendliness of the Macedonian people who are around me and I see the cheerful, smiling faces of young people, beautiful women, and you also have wonderful national treasures like Ohrid, which I visited yesterday and which won me over with its authenticity, I would advise you to take care of those national treasures as if they were the apple of your eye.

Did you maybe get inspiration for shooting in Macedonia for your next project?

Of course, what I`m thinking about a lot is a movie about dogs.

Our meeting started in a very spontaneous way, you recognized Bowie’s face on the t-shirt that I was wearing, and it is inevitable that I ask you about Bowie and his participation in Danny Boyle’s film, (otherwise the favorite among the Skopje audiences from the cult “Trainspotting”).

Unfortunately, that didn`t happen, although Danny and I discussed the script for a long time, David wasn`t ready to accept the lead role, and things would have become more complicated because we had to get the copyrights from his managers, who were asking for additional engagement in an already difficult situation.

I couldn`t help but ask you, what are your favorite movies?

My brain is like a sponge that absorbs everything, and the applause goes to cinema giants such as Tarkovsky, Fellini, Bergman, Nicholas Roeg…

When you mentioned Nicholas Roeg you reminded me of “The Man Who Fell to Earth”.

Of course, it is a very significant film featuring a lot of sex and violence, and in my opinion it is his most courageous work. Last week I watched a film by Sorrentino that really touched me, and I also really liked “Capernaum”…

In my opinion, however, “The Great Beauty” according to the criteria of film aesthetics is his best film, and some scenes remind me of Fellini, while the sex-appeal of the main actress Sabrina Ferilli steals some of the scenes, resembling the days of Anita Ekberg`s youth.

He truly is never boring, he's always insightful and has something to tell the viewer, that's a name we mustn`t forget, and in the future I would add him to the list of directors I want to work with as soon as possible.

There is something poetic in his exposition, and perhaps he finds inspiration from the work of Alberto Moravia as he elaborates on love dilemmas, societal alienation and existentialismYou are a real erudite who, apart from knowing your profession flawlessly, has an enviable knowledge of painting, literature and music, but I would like to invite you if you come to Macedonia next time to visit the Cinematheque of Macedonia, where I work, and it would be a pleasure and an honor for me to have you as a guest.

I would really like to visit Macedonia again and of course the Cinematheque of Macedonia.

Finally, I would like to thank you for your time, I wish you much success in your upcoming film projects, and a new challenge awaits you starting tomorrow when you travel to Brazil, and then to Argentina, where you set sail on a new cinematic adventure.

Thank you for the pleasant conversation and the precisely formulated questions, until our next meeting I wish you a lot of success in your work.


Author: Aleksandar Vasilevski

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