Interview with Filmmaker Pencho Kunchev (ROSES IN THE NIGHT)

What motivated you to make this film?

I have always had the desire to turn poetic texts into animated films. That is why my attention was drawn to the book Les Chansons de Bilitis by Pierre Louys , when it was published for the first time in Bulgaria after the political changes in 1989. When I first read these remarkable verses, I remembered Jean-Jacques Anoud, who had said that after his first reading of L’Amant by Marguerite Duras, the book literally screamed in his hands, wanting to be adapted as a film. In these beautiful verses, I was impressed by a number of elements that are related to Greek mythology and the style of animated cinema, allowing freedom of imagination and the use of metamorphoses.

From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

It took me about eight years to work on this film. This was due both to the fact that I was working completely alone and to the technique of execution, which was too complicated and very time consuming.

First, the phases of the movement were drawn on transparent paper. Each drawing was then photocopied onto white photocopy paper. The next stage was the watercolor painting of each of the drawings. The watercolor technique was too complicated, as the colors were applied on many levels in order to achieve a more complex and picturesque effect. Since I planned to shoot the film with 35mm film, each drawing was carefully cut with special surgical scissors. In this way, each of the characters could “play” on the background, also made with watercolors. If I’m not mistaken, similar technique was used in the making of the film La planete sauvage (1973), directed by Rene Laloux, drawn by Roland Topor and completed in four years in Czechoslovakia.

Finally Roses in the Night was finished with computer, with the help of which more than 4800 drawings on paper were scanned and composed. The music is by the great Serbian composer Zoran Simjanovic (1946-2021), author of the music for Emir Kusturica’s Do You Remember Dolly Bell (1981), which won The Golden Lion in Venice and My Father on a Business Trip (1985), awarded with Palme d’Or at Cannes.

How would you describe your film in two words!?

Erotic poetry.

What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

One of the biggest obstacles was to translate the beautiful poetry of Pierre Louys into the language of animation without the use of a behind-the-scenes voice. I think that when we work with a poetic text, we must be able to present it to the audience so that they can feel the spirit of the work in the best possible way through our drawings and without the help of the crutch of the spoken word. Although our script is based on the poetic text, in this case we are creating a completely new work of art, an audiovisual work, built only of picture and sound. The inclusion of a literary text would mean the author’s inability to convey this text only with images and musical accompaniment.

What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

Watching complete strangers, living thousands of kilometers away from me, and talking about my film is a truly unique and exciting experience. Looking at them and listening to them, I had the feeling that they are my friends, whom we have known for a long time. Saying my name and the title of my film, they seemed to enter my intimate space with the best feelings, as if trying to immerse themselves in the imaginary world created by my drawings and populated by heroes and strange creatures from the wonderful ancient times.

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

I have loved to draw since I can remember. Although during my studying at the Art High School in Sofia I loved watching Bulgarian animated films, my desire was to become an illustrator of books. However later I decided that animated cinema combines in itself different types of arts, including that of book illustration. And so I managed to successfully graduate from the Higher Institute of Applied Arts in Prague, majoring in Film and Television Graphics. My graduation animated film was Sonata Facile, based on drawings I made in Mozart’s hometown of Salzburg. After my return to Bulgaria, I started working in the Animated Film Studio Sofia.

What film have you seen the most in your life?

This is “Death in Venice” (1971) by Luchino Visconti, based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Mann. In this remarkable film, which I have seen more than ten times, almost everything is said about fame and vanity, about youth and old age, about the constant search for true love and unattainable perfection, about beauty and ugliness, about meaning of art and life, about life and death…In this film there is a perfect synchronicity between the great music of Gustav Mahler and the dramaturgy of the narrative. The camera of Pasqualino de Santis “paints” wonderful images similar to the landscapes of Francesco Guardi.

What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

I think your festival does too much to promote the films it selects. We can only wish other festivals would do exactly what you do.

You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

The FilmFreeway platform is very easy and convenient to use. Among other things, it provides useful information and access to quality and prestigious festivals, such as Fantasy/Sci-Fi and Screenplay Festival.

What is your favorite meal?

My favorite meal is Vine Leaves stuffed with meat and rice. This cooking specialty is very popular in Bulgaria as well as in Serbia, Romania, Turkey and Greece. I could boast that I do them in a superior way too.

What is next for you? A new film?

My new film project is again based on a work in the field of poetry – this time it is a wonderful love poem by a poet from the first half of the last century. The topic on which it will be dedicated, is the loneliness after the irretrievable loss of our most loved ones. However, this poem is only the reason for writing the script, which is far more complex and multi-layered, in which personal memories and experiences are intertwined too.


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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