About goals and intentions


 The idea of starting work on the film The Father came in response to the proposals, almost demands (lately unusually frequently repeated, especially by the younger, more educated people) that Serbia should finally have a feature film about the father of the Serbian nation.

However often referred to, and however, within the specific Serbian religiousness, sometimes even inappropriately placed in front of other Christian saints, even in front of the Church, as much as every year historical and literary texts about his life are read at school events – St. Sava is actually a little known fact in our midst. Serbs respect and like St. Sava but they do not actually find him close to their hearts. They praise him, but they do not take him as a role model. They ask him for help, but do not reach for it. The image of him has ultimately become sentimental and unnaturally stiff. More like a tapestry than an icon. Yet this is a multi-gifted man of deep spirituality who was also a volcano of active energy. Someone who can again become a true role model for young people.

Serbs have two great symbols, two strong roots of their spiritual and cultural identity. Both are Christian, but one relates to war and the other – to peace. One relates more to event and the other more to person. Over time, one has become more attached to heroic sacrifice and the other – to life of ascetic feat.

About the undoubted importance of the Battle of Kosovo and of Lazar’s choice for the Serbian history, and the present, one should not spend too many words.

The older, “peaceful” symbol of the Serbian identity is tied to the work of Saint Sava and his father Nemanja – St. Simeon. Without him, even Covenant of Kosovo becomes opaque and vulnerable to abuses of all kind. It is not dealt in the film, and in popular culture in general did not leave any conspicuous traces.

To continue in this difficult period for the Serbian cultural identity without reaching for a symbol around which we can reunite, revive and recuperate, is simply unacceptable. Taking on this symbol as a healthy root, perhaps we can do something on the way out of the malaise in which we are today. When cinema is in question – much has been invested exactly in the deepening of this malaise.

Screenplay for The Father deals with the period from the arrival of the aging sovereign Nemanja as a monk to Mount Athos to the return of his son Sava with his father's miraculous, myrrh-gushing relics to civil war-torn, impoverished and starving Serbia – ten years later.

Why this period of lives of these two great figures of Serbian history, these two great saints?

The reunion, far away from Serbia, of two strong personas – of the father, the successful aging ruler and his son, a young monk of deep spirituality – created the foundation of the Serbian state, Serbian culture and church. Both of them had done everything that was necessary to serve God and their kindred with their whole might. They bore the sacrifice. Nemanja sacrificed his well-deserved comfortable old age so as to touch the life of heaven in ascetic feat even during life and leave to his successors a holy exemplar, while Sava gave up the peace of the Holy Mountain to lead Serbs into the ranks of serious, spiritually enlightened nations.

With their love, they practically forced one another to this. Sometimes perhaps on the verge of conflict, they helped one another to get the best out of themselves and thus always remain together to serve God and their kindred. The father and the son. The role models for eternity.

It is always moving and inspiring to see how a son, regardless of his yearnings, with love accepts and meets his father’s covenant, yet it is especially amazing and rarely seen that a son become a spiritual father to his father! This is something that today still, in the general hopelessness that is pressing Serbia, may serve as example to the younger generations, but also as hope to the older ones. Overcoming obstacles and hard work in achieving the fullness of love and holiness is something that has universal significance, something that is potentially interesting to all people and all cultures.

The Father will help us to leave aside, for a moment, the clichés with which we have captured the two Greats (while we have done it to make it easier for us to accept the passivity and weaknesses of our own). The film will look at the miracle of the transformation of the old ruler, roughened by many a war and burden of power – into a meek and benevolent saint, one who is literally guided by the evangelical credo “he who wants to be elder, let him be under all and servant of all” and, on the other hand, the transformation of a young man of great spiritual gift, entirely dedicated to self-improvement – into the Father of the Nation, who returns to the turmoil of the world to serve his neighbour with all his forces.

Today, Serbia is becoming a country of elderly people. How much meaning, in this context, bears a reminder that old age is not only expectation of death and that repair of oneself can and should last until the last breath! How important is that, in the time of dominant individualism, the young are warned that only service to others leads to the full development of one's God-given gifts!

The jeopardy in the cinematic approach to this subject matter lies in the prevailing sentimental formula, while the full disclosure and understanding of it is possible only in a sincere, realistic perception of human destiny. In order for the film not to remain just a well-intentioned but tendentious view of Serbian national history, we must not lose a sense of holiness, but we must not forget the casual conflict and humour, which is necessary for the truthful insight into events and characters.

To make it easier for us to access these greats, we are also aided by the precious characters of Nemanja’s companions, old warriors who had sworn allegiance to their master until the end, who had come to Mount Athos with him to follow him to the death. Like most of the audience, they initially do not understand the highly spiritual topics, but when they begin to try to convert their military skills into spiritual – this becomes the source of a series of endearing, even comical situations. Only when they set their sights to building a Serbian monastery on Mount Athos – for posterity – they find themselves in full. In the end, with love, together with their master, they will find triumph.

Through a film about the worldly and the spiritual, a film in which we will rediscover the tears and smiles of healing, runs a series of parallels with present time.

In The Father, we follow the reconstruction of previously abandoned Hilandar Monastery; today, we follow its reconstruction after a fire.

Exhausted and impoverished by wars and internal conflicts, Serbia of The Father has a clear parallel in the present poor state of the country.

The hope that the coming back of Sava and Simeon brought to the land has a parallel in our hope from which The Father has come to be.

In the selection of events to be covered in the screenplay, care was taken of the unfortunate economic situation and the difficulties that stand in the way of raising funds for the film. Avoided are the large mass scenes, cumbersome set design efforts and an abundance of expensive historic costumes. Yet, it is a “spectacle in miniature”. By the choice of events and locations, the costume and the set design are condensed, but everything needs to be done with maximum realism nonetheless. The cinematic language must be contemporaneous, with effective use of technology and high-demand procedures in post-production. The film is visually challenging, while the specific atmosphere of the Holy Mountain and of the stirring historical reconstructions needs a hand from the music score, which will be given special attention.

Overall, The Father is a film of national importance that has to be done according to excellent standards, but in a way of St. Sava – by connecting the spiritual and the material, the prayer and the craft, that which is religious with that which is artistic.