Director Alexander Andreev presented in St. Petersburg the film “5 Weeks”, a lyrical tragicomedy created during the quarantine that suddenly descended upon us and tells about him, the damned. The pandemic is locking up two people who love each other in the same apartment. Within four walls, they go through five stages of accepting the inevitable, they get to know each other again …
The film has not yet been released, but has already received two awards at the Amur Autumn Festival in Blagoveshchensk – for Best Director and Best Actress (Yulia Shubareva).
Alexander and Yulia – spouses and colleagues in the theater, serve in the Youth Theater on the Fontanka. “5 weeks” – Andreev’s debut in full meter. In 2017, he released the short film “Consumption” (the film is dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Civil War and the October Revolution in Russia, with one family in the center), the actor Artyom Bystrov, who we will see in the lead role in the film “5 Weeks”, was filmed there.
Did you write the script for “5 weeks” during an unexpected confinement, when theaters were closed and filming was stopped?
Alexander Andreev: Yes, as soon as it started. I remember what a shock it was, stress … I had to somehow digest it. The script was written in 5 days. I gave it to actor Artem Bystrov and producer Alexander Suvorov to read. And the process started. Yes, we had doubts that the topic would become irrelevant – the pandemic would end, the restrictions would soon be lifted. But our story is not about a pandemic, but about the relationship of people who love each other. About the ability to forgive and accept yourself and the world around you as it is. This is such an “art aid” for getting out of stressful situations. A lyrical tragicomedy vaguely reminiscent of the “Autumn Marathon” by the famous Soviet director Georgy Danelia. And the pandemic in the film is just suggested circumstances and, as time has shown, now this is our new world in which we live and which will definitely be written about in history books. Now we have to live, work, love in this new world. That’s not relevant for you.
Did you zoom in?
Alexander Andreev: No, we managed to shoot between lockdowns. In August 2020, we began preparations, rehearsed for about a month. And they filmed it in 12 shifts, in September. Someone joked at the festival that we will enter the Guinness Book of Records. And almost a year – the installation and toning period.
It turned out to be a Petersburg movie: the actors are from Petersburg …
Alexander Andreev: … and filmed in St. Petersburg. In our film, the deserted St. Petersburg is especially magnificent.
Artem Bystrov is an artist of the Chekhov Moscow Art Theater. From our Youth Theater: Yulia Shubareva, Andrey Shimko, Alexander Kulikov, Sasha Tikhanovsky. Daria Tsiberkina – from the Lensovet Theater. Pavel Maslakov and Ekaterina Petrova are students of our theater institute on Mokhovaya. The news presenter was played by the actress of the Theater on Vasilievsky Elena Martynenko.
Artem Bystrov: I am also partly a St. Petersburg actor. I spend a lot of time in this city, I love it.
Actor Artem Bystrov and director Alexander Andreev. Photo: Angela Mnatsakanyan
There was no casting?
Alexander Andreev: There are not many roles in the script, and casting almost immediately formed in my head.
And they took off their children?
Alexander Andreev: The daughter of the main character was played by the daughter of director of photography Elena Metla, Marfa Yakovleva. In other children’s roles – my children Georgy and Gleb Andreevs and nephew Elisey Vasiliev. We had a “family” row. In general, everyone helped us in filming with all their hearts and with pleasure.
And whose music?
Alexander Andreev: Petersburg group The BigBuddy Band and soloist Vera Egorova. It’s fantastic how we found each other. Artyom was the first to hear their songs.
Vera Egorova: Artyom spied on us as we played, from a nearby site, literally from the bushes! And after the concert he came up and asked: “Do you perform on the roofs?” He said that we are cool guys.
Artem Bystrov: When I first saw Vera, she performed in mime makeup. She had a loudspeaker, she sat on the twine, sang in English. Awesome team. We haven’t reached the roofs yet. Let’s get there! I gave Sasha their music to listen to. As a result, four songs that the group wrote during the pandemic were included in the film, and the musicians starred in it.
Is there a similar role in your filmography?
Artem Bystrov: I haven’t played anything like this before. Yes, I am with them – Andreev and Suvorov – really “ready for fire and water.” Sasha Andreev had a kind of our “Slavic Bazaar” at home (remember the meeting between Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko). We read and discussed the stories he wrote (he has a lot of them), stopped at “5 weeks”. We decided to try everything ourselves. What happened is for the viewer to judge. But our film received two “cranes” at the “Amur Autumn” festival. By the way, one of the few filmed without anyone’s support.
Where did you look for money for a movie, who helped?
Alexander Andreev: We did not participate in pitching. We tried to do it on our own.
– With the world on a string … But we did not mortgage the apartment (adds Artem Bystrov. By the way, he is one of the producers of this picture).
What audience are you targeting your movie to?
Artem Bystrov: 18 plus. There are nuances … But the film is for the widest audience.
What inspired you? Did someone tell you this story, and you decided to shoot it?
Alexander Andreev: I was so impressed by the quarantine that hit the world when I first heard the siren sound outside the window and the announcement over the loudspeaker: “Attention! Dear Petersburgers and guests of the city! To preserve the health of you and your loved ones, we ask you to stay at home and observe the regime of self-isolation …” desire to speak on this topic. The very history of the relationship between the characters is nowhere spied. My heroes try to resist the circumstances that the new world offers them.
With Artem Bystrov and Alexander Suvorov, we created the creative association “Three A Film” (Alexander, Artem, Alexander). We met during the filming of the 4-episode TV movie “Overtaking Time”. It was filmed according to my script, Artem Bystrov played the creator of the first hydrofoil, designer Rostislav Alekseev, I – his friend Zaitsev, Alexander Suvorov was an artist in the picture, Daria Tsiberkina – a creative producer.
We are going to continue to work together and now we are in search of funding for the next project. I would like the state to support us. Once or twice, you can make a movie yourself (which is what happened with our films), but without support it is almost impossible to do this. This is a very expensive pleasure.
“Consumption” has received about 30 awards at film festivals. “5 weeks” has already won two major awards. Nice, of course. But the phone didn’t get cut off from calls and offers.… And we have something to film about, something to tell. There is the strength and desire to make a good movie.
Artem Bystrov: Human, about good, sympathetic people, who are many around.
Both your first film and the next you shot according to your own scripts. Decided not to shoot for strangers? Or not interesting?
Alexander Andreev: Now we have shot a teaser for the upcoming film “Sanya, Sanya, Sanya …” with Pavel Derevyanko in the title role. Alexander Suvorov wrote a script, an autobiographical story about how a production designer, having fallen from a set, broke his spine and ended up in a wheelchair … I think this story is wonderful because it teaches the love of life. That you can cope with any difficulties, and there is nothing more beautiful than life itself. We really hope that there will be those who will support us, and we will be able to shoot this very important social, light, comedy movie.
You studied on the course of the famous St. Petersburg director Sergei Ovcharov. Have the master seen your films?
Alexander Andreev: I saw “Consumption”, this is my thesis at the Institute of Film and Television. I invite Sergei Mikhailovich to the premiere of “5 weeks”.
What’s new in your theater now?
Alexander Andreev: Replacement and cancellation of performances, QR codes. The situation is difficult, like everyone else, I guess. The premiere is being prepared – “The Marriage” by Gogol, Yulia Shubareva is rehearsing the role of Agafya Tikhonovna.
Artem Bystrov: We at the Moscow Art Theater have a 50% occupancy rate, QR codes, like everywhere else … I have nine performances, I don’t complain about being unoccupied. The recent premiere is “In the Trenches of Stalingrad” by Sergei Zhenovach.
Actor Andrey Shimko. Photo: Angela Mnatsakanyan
Five stages of accepting the inevitable
Andrey Shimko, actor of the Youth Theater on Fontanka, played a psychologist in the film “5 weeks”.
Was it interesting to play in this pandemic movie?
Andrey Shimko: It was interesting to me already because Sasha, my colleague in the theater, took up the job. I read his book “The Stories of the Artist Alekseev”, watched the film “Overtaking Time”, where he was a screenwriter and played a role, and now I am filming in the TV series “The Hypocrites”, the script of five episodes of which Andreyev wrote, and he writes well, in acting realizing that the dialogues must be alive. He also asked me a question: “Are you with us?” Of course. How could I answer differently?
And he offered me the role of a psychologist. These are the monologues of a blogger who tells people how to go through five stages of accepting an inevitable problem: first, denial (this could not happen to me, I don’t want to accept it), anger, then bargaining (comprehension), understanding and humility. The American psychologist Elizabeth Ross wrote about this back in 1969.
This is the story of one couple, as well as the people who are associated with them. The heroes find themselves during a sudden quarantine in the apartment for five weeks. Shock, stressful situation. How to be?
My role is continuous, like a refrain, through the entire film, my hero Albert Shchutsky conducts research into the emotional state of people over the background of five weeks. From total denial to acceptance: you need to learn to live differently.
By the way
Film studio “Lenfilm” resumes the work of the popular discussion platform “Lenfilm Club” (viewers are invited to watch new films, discuss what they have seen with creative groups and experts). The first film screening with discussion – “5 weeks” by Alexander Andreev – took place before the announcement of the lockdown. After the restrictions are lifted, “Lenfilm Club” will continue meetings.
Still from the film “5 weeks”. Photo: from the archive of Alexander Andreev