Veteran Czech film-maker Jirí Menzel, who was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award at the ongoing International Film Festival of India, says he doesn’t make movies out of his love for cinema. In fact, the multi-talented artiste insists that he treats film-making like any other profession. The only thing he does, however, is tirelessly aspire to do his job as perfectly as he can. That probably explains why so early in his career, his film, Closely Watched Trains (1967), won the Best Foreign Language Oscar at the 40th Academy Awards in 1968.
While speaking to us at the 44th edition of IFFI in Goa, the theatre director, actor and screenwriter talks about his interest in subjects from his daily life and reveals why he is strictly against making ‘issue-based’ films.
Your films have always revolved around simple human stories. What keeps you inspired?
It’s my profession ; I produce and make movies. Film-making is not my passion. Passion binds you and you are not free. You have to respect working and see what you need to make a good picture.
Why don’t you believe in dealing with real-life issues in your movies?
I don’t need to make films to highlight social problems. I don’t like those people who wish to make films so they can present solutions to current problems either. Who am I to say how things must be? I am not a teacher, nor am I in politics. I am a citizen like many other people. I am just working with the intent to make my life better.
How difficult was it for you to express your emotions through films amid such political turbulence in Czechoslovakia?
Political difficulties are some among the many difficulties that a film-maker faces. There are financial, cultural and social difficulties and so on. I can’t make films against communism; I can make movies which don’t have political shades. Censorship is a very bad thing if it is used for political reasons, but freedom is easy to misuse as well. I think there should be something in between.
Have you ever watched any Indian movies?
I think I saw a couple in the ’50s… Raj Kapoor’s cinema, but I don’t remember. Watching films isn’t fun for me. I don’t need to watch movies. From time to time, I do watch some good films, but I am not a buff. I can make my movies. I don’t want to watch other people’s movies. And I don’t see Indian cinema.
Do you plan to watch any Indian films, here at IFFI?
I was invited to watch one, but I didn’t see it because I don’t want to. I don’t even watch my own films when they release in theatres. The films I make are not for me to watch; they’re for other people to see.
What are you working on next?
I have many things in mind, but I have no courage, so I prefer to not work. I can’t keep making movies one after the other. I have to make some time for pleasure.