“9:06” is the story of a police inspector in Ljubljana who investigates an unusual case. His investigation turns into an obsession as he secretly moves into the apartment of the deceased, delving deeper into the man’s life and gradually assuming his identity.
9.06 will be screened at South East European Film Festival, Los Angeles.
Igor Sterk, director of “9:06,” was born in 1968 and graduated at Ljubljana Film Academy. In 1989 he crossed the Atlantic Ocean with his father in a sail-boat just over 6 meters long. He directed his first feature film Express, express in 1997. The film received 15 international awards, including two Grand prizes (Montpellier Film Festival,1998; Alpe Adria Cinema – Trieste,1998) and three audience prizes. The film was successfully distributed in movie theathers across Germany by the NeueVisionenFilmVerleich distribution company.
Sterk’s second feature film, Ljubljana, had an international premiere at the 2002 edition of the the Rotterdam Film Festival in the Tiger award competition section. His third feature film, Tuning, had a world premiere in competition at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival in 2005. The film received the Grand-prize for the best feature film at Mannheim-Heidelberg Film Festival in 2005. His short film “Every Breath You Take” (2008) was selected in competition at the Venice Film Festival.
His last film “9:06” (2009) had a world premiere at the Montreal Film Festival in competition. At the Slovenian Film Festival, “9:06” received 9 awards including the awards for the best film, director, screenplay, actor, and more!
Bijan Tehrani: What was your motivation for the making of “9:06”?
Igor Sterk: One of the topics of the film is a question of suicide. Slovenia, where I come from, has one of the highest percentage rates of suicide in the world. And I found it shocking that 1.2 million people worldwide commit suicide every year. “9:06” has some similarities with Roman Polanski’s film “The Tenant” and William Fridkin’s “Cruising“; in those two films, the main character is gradually taking over the identity of someone else—in the case of “Cruising“, Al Pacino is taking over the identity of the subject he investigates as a police inspector, and in “The Tenant”, the main character is gradually taking over the identity of the deceased person of the apartment where he moved in. In “9:06”, we have a mix of both. Of course “9:06” moves in its own direction, but it’s easy to find some parallels with these two films.
BT: What was your procedure in working with Sinisa Dragin over the screenplay? Most author/directors like to have full control over their material for a film and it is hard for them to work with someone else on the script. In the case of “9:06”, it‘s quite a special film because provides a seamless storytelling experience.
IS: This is my third collaboration with Sinisa Dragin as a co-writer. I very much enjoy working with him—his ideas, suggestions about the characters, scenes, and dialogue are really helpful and if I like one ideal, I am more than happy to include it in the script. The other thing is, he’s also a good film director himself. So he has no problem when it comes to understanding and thinking about the visual part of the film and how it can underline the story.
BT: To make the story of the metamorphoses of one character to another believable is always a very challenging task. How did you manage to overcome this challenge?
IS: I believe it has a lot to do with the mysterious atmosphere in which the film begins. Although at first it is not obvious where this obsession comes from, there are clues from the very beginning of the film that help us believe this transformation.
BT: Did acting as a co-producer help you make “9:06” the way you wanted it to be?
IS: In an independent production, especially in Europe, this is not so unusual. That’s the way I have done all my feature films (this is my fourth), and I have good collaboration with my producers and we all understand the limits of one production. What really helped us a lot was that ZDF/ARTE German television supported the film, so it gave us possibility to realize everything we hoped for visually—like some shots in CGI and digital intermediate post-production.
BT: How did you go about casting the film?
IS: The main character was played by Igor Samobor, a Slovenian actor who is one of the best theater actors in Slovenia for sure, but hasn’t done much work on film. I knew he would be an ideal actor to play this part, so from the very beginning we started to work him into the screenplay. We knew we wanted to work with others as well, like Labina Mitevska—a well-known Macedonian actress, Silva Cusin in the role of the ex-wife, Gregor Bakovic in the role of the pathologist, and Pavle Ravnohrib in the role of the inspector’s buddy. I had them in mind when writing the screenplay.
BT: How do you work with the actors? Are they allowed to change a line or improvise on the set? Do you have rehearsals prior to the shoot?
IS: Yes, sure. If the actors feel they should say something in a different way, I have no problem with that. I think if the certain words come naturally in dialogue, it makes everything more believable. We started rehearsals two months prior to the shooting, but of course we changed a few things later on the set.
BT: “9:06” seems to be a very well designed film at the pre-production stage, which does not leave too much room for changes during the shoot. It reminds me of preciseness of Hitchcock. Is this a right understanding?
IS: Together with my director of photography, we made a very detailed shooting-script before we start the shooting. Some key locations we studied well in advance, because it wasn’t easy to shoot there from a production point of view and we had to be exact, like the bridge at the beginning and end of the film. But “9:06” was still a “living” thing, so we could not finalize every little detail about the shooting in advance . But it sure helps to have a very clear vision and a precise plan before the shooting starts, even if you have some minor changes when you start shooting.
BT: The style of “9:06” is quite unique and plays a big part in expressing and explaining the hidden layers of the film’s story. How did you come up with this visual style? Did you have a clear idea about camera work, lighting and colors prior to the shoot?
IS: I think I have always loved to work on the visual aspect of my films. I have made two feature films and a short with Simon Tansek as my director of photography and I really love to collaborate with him. We both prefer to discuss all aspects of the visual style of the film well in-advance and go into all the details about lighting, colors, and camera work. So, I think that is also one of the reasons why everything worked so well for determining the visual style of “9:06”.
BT: In a way “9:06” is a film about music. How did you use the music in order to further your story?
IS: The main theme of the film is from Beethoven’s sonata. I knew I would use it already when we were still writing the screenplay. We took just particular parts of the sonata, which would help this unusual and a bit mysterious atmosphere of the film. It also played an important part in the life of the deceased person, whose case is taken by the inspector, since he was the pianist.
BT: Slovenian cinema has introduced great and exceptional films such as Gravehopping, Rooster’s Breakfast and now 9.06. Tell us your thoughts, in short, about Slovenian cinema.
IS: Slovenia is such a small country with only two million inhabitants, therefore our film productions are small as well. There are only 3 or 4 feature films made per year. We all hope for a growth in that number and in the size of our film productions. There are a lot of talented director’s and, unfortunately, many are forced to wait too long (for years, sometimes) to get another chance at a film, even if success was present with a past film. Still, a bright future is present and I am hopeful from the success I have witnessed.