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Kirill Serebrennikov on Cannes Competition Title ‘Petrov’s Flu’




Three years after his musical drama “Leto” bowed on the Croisette, Kirill Serebrennikov returns to Cannes’ main competition with “Petrov’s Flu,” a deadpan, hallucinatory romp through a post-Soviet Russia in the grips of a mysterious flu epidemic. The acclaimed director spoke to Variety about living with fear and making the most out of solitude.

How did you get involved with “Petrov’s Flu”?
I was hired to write the script. And I started to read the [novel on which the film is based] and understand how to take this very complicated Russian contemporary literature and turn it into a movie. In the process, I fell in love with this story, because I found a lot of it very personal. And when I finished the script, I didn’t want to give it to somebody else.

What did you see in it?
From my point of view, it’s a very Russian movie, and a very personal film about our fears: Soviet and post-Soviet fears, and about people who had the same childhood. But [Cannes] choosing our movie for the competition shows that people from different cultures and from different experiences have something in common, and they can feel the same fears and have the same feelings about being alone, about being connected to something unbelievable and feared and strange.

You’re making a movie about Russia in the time of a mysterious flu. And then, by this eerie coincidence, the world is struck by a mysterious flu. Did that have any influence on the film?
It’s always very complicated to think ahead. You can’t think ahead, you can only feel ahead. I always say that the movie shoots itself; it’s not me who shoots the movie. The film grabs from reality, from the universe, what it wants.

You were on trial in a Moscow court as you were shooting this film. What was that like?
It was kind of parallel lives. Morning till afternoon, I [was in court]. In the night I came to the pavilion and to the locations and filmed this story. It was a time without sleeping at all, but the film process helped me not to think about all this absurd, Kafkan process.

You haven’t been allowed to leave Russia since 2017. What are your plans for the day you can?
I hope when the whole world will be able to travel, I’ll join the whole world. [Under house arrest] I had my own story about isolation. Now it’s a global trend. I’m like a pioneer of isolation.

What’s been your advice to people coping with that during the pandemic?
Learn languages you never even planned to learn. Now you have time to read the biggest books. Watch movies you never saw before. Ring someone by phone and try to renew connections with people from your previous life. Then you have enough time to come up to the mirror and say, “Hi, me,” and ask the main questions to yourself, and try to get the main answer about yourself.

Did you take your own advice?
I started to learn German. I worked on a lot of music and wrote new operas. I read really huge books I bought years ago that were laying in the far corners of my flat. And I asked myself very important questions that I tried to answer frankly. Focusing on yourself is not really bad. Sometimes it opens a lot of new sources for the future, for the next step in your life. You need to find something really good in this isolation. And it’s possible.

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