Filmmakers Sergei Spirin and Andrei Beresnev’s spiritual drama IYOV follows a lone individual named Job who, in the aftermath of a profound loss, searches for meaning as he battles depression. Visually, the co-directors evoke the work of Emmanuel Lubezki, whose awe-inspiring wide-lensed work with Terrence Malick and Alejandro Iñárritu similarly draws upon profound philosophical themes, with characters negotiating their place amongst immense environments. Spirin and Beresnev’s tale sees Job’s journey throughout several stunning locations across Georgia, highlighting the beauty of the world he struggles to remain a part of. DN is delighted to premiere IYOV on our pages today and joined Spirin and Beresnev for a comprehensive conversation about their journey creating the film, covering the personal story of loss that inspired it, the inspiration of Lubezki and Malick, and their working approach to creating beautiful cinematography.
What drew you to tell this story of a man searching for meaning in the wake of grief?
Sergei Spirin: Several years ago, my godfather passed away. He left on his own accord, unable to bear the burden of the trials that befell him. This news shook our entire family, and years later, I realized that despite the weight of the memories, I must tell this story and make it understandable without words and beyond time.
We were able to create something meaningful with limited resources.
I’m interested to know if you have any visual references or filmmakers whose style inspires you. Watching IYOV, I was thinking about the work of Terrence Malick and Andrei Tarkovsky.
SS: As references for the visual style and narrative, I was inspired by films such as The Shawshank Redemption by Frank Darabont, A Hidden Life By Terrence Malick and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by David Fincher. I was also struck by the memories of people who had once stood on the brink of life and death. In particular, the comment of a woman who had an unusual dream before attempting suicide was almost literally quoted in the climax of our film.
Did you write the main character as an amalgamation of your family’s story and these other tales you’d been reading?
SS: I wrote the main character, named Job, as a collective image of many people who were able to cope with unbearable trials and find salvation. This film will fulfil its purpose if at least one person who sees it can stop in their terrible intentions and take off the noose from their neck.
The backdrop of Georgia works so wonderfully in the film, I’m curious how you found the nature of production in these rich, sparse environments. Did you crew up locally? How was it working in Georgia?
Andrei Beresnev: This project was a special experience for us because very talented people from Georgia, Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, and the United States worked on it. It was an amazing pool of very cool people who were ready to do a lot of creative work in such difficult times. As the project progressed, the idea was born from Sergei, and I just suggested to him to shoot something, as Georgia has an extraordinary potential for location shooting, and I had long been nurturing the idea of creative realization.
There’s a real variety of locations too, how long were you in production for and how was it navigating that space?
AB: I am very inspired by nature and I think it served as a reason for Sergei’s call and the proposal to shoot a film that would talk about difficult things but also show what a beautiful world we have around us. The shooting took place over two days since the budget was not that large. To be honest, it was a stroke of luck to catch the right mood and weather for specific scenes. For the opening scene, there was a beautiful sunset, but a few hours before that, the cloudy sky gave us a sad atmosphere, under which Job lies next to the burnt house. Technically, we had one light source, a camera and slider, and some grip stuff. We were quite mobile to be able to visit all locations within two days. Overall, it was a great experience and we were able to create something meaningful with limited resources.
I am very inspired by nature and I think it served as a reason for Sergei’s call and the proposal to shoot a film that would talk about difficult things but also show what a beautiful world we have around us.
What was your approach to location scouting and shot composition? The cinematography in IYOV is stunning.
AB: The pre-production was quite fast; I know the surroundings of Georgia quite well, and as soon as we had a script, we started scouting locations. As a cinematographer and director of some scenes, I relied on the amazing work with light by my idols Emanuel Lubezki and Jörg Widmer. I was inspired by Lubezki’s early work, like Sleepy Hollow, with his later style of Birdman and The Revenant, which almost does not imply a huge amount of light in the frame. And from Jörg Widmer’s work, I was amazed at how authentically and stunningly the camera’s dramaturgy and light are conveyed in the film A Hidden Life by Terrence Malick.
Do you storyboard at all? There are so many gorgeous shots throughout IYOV, I’m curious to know how you planned for them.
AB: Having a final script, before shooting, we dedicated one day to conducting rehearsal shots. This allowed us to work on blocking, composition, camera movement, and lighting. As a result, these shots served as a storyboard for our project.
This film will fulfil its purpose if at least one person who sees it can stop in their terrible intentions and take off the noose from their neck.
Were there any practical challenges to shooting in the rural parts of Georgia?
AB: Shooting in the natural landscapes of Georgia posed some challenges, particularly with regard to snakes and ticks. We were a bit apprehensive about encountering these creatures. However, apart from that, everything went smoothly. The people in Georgia were incredibly kind and helpful. Some locals even assisted us in finding an old bicycle for our filming and helped us set up a fire.
What will you both be working on next?
AB: My friend Ted Young, who played the role of a priest, is also the general producer of this project. Our aim in 2023 is to create a satirical film that explores the consequences of consumer society, presented in the form of a fairy tale with animal characters portrayed by people in costumes. Additionally, Sergey and I have plans to film The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen. We hope to find suitable locations in the north of England or in Ireland if we find a way to film in the UK, but I’m worried that it could be quite expensive for an indie project, haha!