Ode to the Poet
Martin Srebotnjak

Synopsis

Unrecognised poet MIHA writes cheap commercial slogans for a living. After everyone has turned down an invitation to write an epic poem in honour of the bicentenary of Prešeren's birth, finally he is asked to do it.

After he catches his girlfriend DANA in bed with another man, he throws her from the apartment. PETRA, a student, enters his life and wants to help him in his battle with the great myth of Prešeren. He has trouble writing the poem while his friend EDO is getting increasingly nervous because he has a number of new commercials for Miha to write, and furthermore, the STATE SECRETARY is getting more and more furious because he is beginning to understand that the state celebration is being created by a group of "shining examples of the members of Slovenian cultural community". Miha yields under pressure and submits to secretary's demands for a politically correct product. Petra leaves him, and Edo has no use for the dysfunctional poet. Miha realises there is no other way than to secretly switch the poem with another one and clear his own conscience.

director's statement

HOW "ODE TO THE POET" WAS MADE
(with poetic licence - no offence to the producer)

The feature film debut of Martin Srebotnjak, who not only wrote the screenplay and directed the film, but was also the first screenwriter/director in Slovenia who in addition to those two important tasks in the making of this film played the leading role of the poet Miha who is pressed with a number of professional and personal problems, was taking shape under a very strange star.
Martin wrote the screenplay for the film in the spring of 1999, in only 8 days, as there was only that much time left to enter the public competition of the Film Fund of the Republic of Slovenia for co-financing films. He was sending the screenplay in bits to the producer Danijel Hočevar who in this rather unusual manner arranged all the other documentation for registering the screenplay. They both thought that the subvention for the realisation of the film would not be questionable, for besides the quality of the screenplay there was also the fact that in this particular competition the Film Fund RS focused its attention on financing films, dedicated to dr. France Preseren due to the 200th anniversary of his birth. But obviously they could not be more wrong. In spite of many commendations of readers home and abroad (Charles B. Smith and Rajko Grlić at the Imaginary Academy in Grožnjan, Croatia also Srdjan Karanović and many others), the screenplay, in the opinion of the Slovenian Film Fund's authoritative body, was lacking in quality and therefore its realisation was unworthy of financing. But sometimes it is good to be a bit stubborn when it comes to realising your ideas and proving you are right, so both Martin and Daniel would not give up that easily. Following the advice of the Film Fund they worked on the screenplay, hoping for the best. Well, if we are to be accurate, Martin "polished" it so well that the next evaluation of the authoritative body of the Film Fund was one third lower from the first one, which was not high enough to be financed by the Fund to begin with.

At the same time the director and the producer were hoping for the cold heart of the authoritative representatives of another potential co-producer, TV Slovenia, to melt. The main editor of the Artistic Program of TV Slovenia - Jaroslav Skrusny at the time - took a little time from the intensive shooting of "his" TV series about dr. Preseren (directed by Franci Slak) and estimated the screenplay big enough and good enough to be put into realisation. But because bad luck rarely comes alone, three days before the beginning of the film-shooting (in the middle of February 2000) the higher TV authorities (higher than Mr. Skrušny) pulled out from one of their dusty drawers some (insignificant and irresponsible) view of the Council of RTV Slovenia which declares that the so-called "external" co-producer must present evidence of his financial capability in case of co-production with TV Slovenia (regardless of what share TV Slovenia contributes, 99% or 1%). And in spite of the past references of the producer (The Socialization of a Bull?, Idle Running, Porno Film, if we mention only the last three films till that date), those in charge at TV Slovenia came to the conclusion that VERTIGO / E-MOTION FILM is not trustworthy and can not be considered as such, so three days before the beginning of the shooting they decided not to sign the contract, with a note saying that the television part of the film crew is withdrawing from the production.

Considering the fact that VERTIGO / E-MOTION FILM has already had invested a considerable amount of funds that would definitely go to waste in case of the cancellation of the project, the producer decided to go all the way. The film was shot in 19 days as anticipated, while one or the other important member of the crew was repeatedly at the edge of a nervous break-down, and the main figure of this whole story, Martin Srebotnjak, was submitted to enormous pressure. He not only directed the film he wrote the screenplay for, but he also played the leading role, and all of this in a film, made in a financially almost suicidal production.

This self-destructing situation was the reason almost three months passed between the end of the shooting and the developing of the material, while the film itself was a kind of novelty in (not only Slovenian but also world-wide) film production. The reason is that during the shooting no one saw not even a little piece of the material shot. The people were working literally "by heart", and in that same way they started editing five months after the developing of the material. During that time Martin went numb as a film director, he lost his will to finish the film, then he found it again, repeatedly saying in the meanwhile that he is the first person in the world to have this happening to him. Which is probably not far from the truth.

So, in October 2000 the post-production of the film began. The off-line editing was done at Emotionfilm, while everything is being put together these days in March, including the editing of the picture, writing the music for the film, and completing the sound image of the film that has to be finalised in Dolby Digital SRD Standard at Bavaria Film in Munich, while the negative is being processed in the laboratory HFL in Budapest.

Meanwhile an important financial movement took place - after the projection of the first edited version of the film in December 1999, the administrative board of the Film Fund RS advised the director to grant the producer's request for the financing of the film, and so the film that originally was not meant to be placed on the list of those intended for the subvention of the Film Fund, finally found itself on it. Not entirely by the rules, though, but completely deservedly according to the general opinion of those who saw the first version of it. But there is no concern that too many directors and producers would take a similar path, for it is much too uncertain and it gives too little a dependable result. But at the same time - if it is successful, of course - there is much pleasure to be found in it. Especially if the version of the film, shot almost literally by the screenplay said to be lacking in quality and evaluated unworthy of financing, is recognised for its quality.

Crew

director and screenwriter
producer
director of photography
music by
Alojz Srebotnjak
editor
sound designer
 
sound recordist
costume designer
co-producer
Andrej Kregar

Actors

Miha
Petra
Edo
Gregor Čušin
Sekretar
Brane Grubar
Dana
Barbara Žefran
Prešeren
Molnar
Tomi Janežič
Južnič
Ednan Konstantinović

Data

Year
2001
Genre
feature
Film format 
35 mm (posneto na S16 mm) 
Video format 
Digital BETACAM 
Lenght 24fps 
104'15'', 2850 m 
Length 25fps 
100'05'' 
Sound 
Dolby Digital SR-D 
aspect ratio 
1,66:1 
color 
color 
language 
slovensko 
translation 
 
 
 
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