Giulia Ghigi Who was Rok Biček before becoming a director?
Rok Biček I was a grammar school student interested in theater and acting.
GG Why did you choose this story for your debut film?
RB The story is based on true events I experienced at the grammar school, when a third-year girl committed suicide. This was followed by a spontaneous rebellion by her classmates against the school system and teachers. During a more detailed research on these events, I found out a lot about the mutual relationships between the people involved and the tense situations going on back then. This served as a strong framework for the story and as the basis for most of the scenes in the film.
GG How was the experience on the set on a feature-length film? (Most satisfying and more difficult moment?)
RB It´s amazing when you feel positive energy and confidence from the whole crew even in the hardest moments. During the rehearsals, it was necessary for everyone to become aware of all the feelings and experiences they had repressed. The personal stories they shared allowed me to draw out the reactions I needed from them. Many of them hated me for that and probably would have not taken part in the project if they had known what was in store for them.
GG How important was the encounter with the director Janez Lapajne, who is also the producer (with Triglav Film) and co-scriptwriter of the film?
RB I entered the cinema world as a grammar school student at Janez Lapajne’s film workshop. Since then I have learned a lot from him trough our mutual work on his last two feature films. Those experiences were priceless… While shooting Class Enemy, I was no longer student, neither at film school not at Lapajne’s workshop. This was hard to realize for some and resulted in a quite hard and stressful atmosphere during the shooting. But it was not so bad after all, because you can feel this energy in some very powerful scenes of the movie.
GG How did you choose and how did you work with such a rich and diverse cast, including both very young and experienced actors, such as Igor Samobor?
RB The characters in the script were created in two ways. First, my co-writers and I built on true situations and the personalities of the real people involved in the facts. In this way, we came up with nine characters, representing the outline of the whole class. My assistant and I then searched for these characters among the actual grammar school students.
Although the character of the teacher is inspired by my professor of maths at the grammar school, it was still indispensable to have Igor Samobor and his personality in mind while creating the main character of the film. I think that the combination of non‑professional and professional actors is interesting only if you can take advantage of the energy developing between them. Purposefully, they had never rehearsed together before the start of the shooting. Perhaps this approach seems unusual, but in my case it turned out to be very efficient.
GG Is there a specific image of contemporary Slovenia that you want to convey in your film? Do you see Class Enemy as generational portrait of contemporary Slovenian youth?
RB I think (film) art should address issues that reflect the national as well as the global society. In Class Enemy this is achieved through the microcosm of the grammar school students, who belong to an extremely vulnerable generation. The rebellion of the students against the school system, which is symbolised by the strict teacher, is a reflection of the general dissatisfaction of a society that for whatever reason, justified or not, continuously attempts to rebel against the established social norms. Only someone who is not burdened by this specific society may show a mirror to it. Therefore a Chinese immigrant, who in the film states “you Slovenians either kill yourselves or each other”, sums up the frustration of the whole Slovenian society. The first half of the statement originates in the fact that we Slovenians are among the most suicidal nations in the world. The second half, however, is rooted in the mass killings that took place immediately after World War II, when the partisans retaliated against the defeated quislings. Both problems are still strongly present in Slovenian society today, and it looks like it is going to remain this way.
GG At the moment, do you have any idea for future projects?
RB I am already shooting a feature-length documentary, The Family, in which I follow a young boy over the course of seven years. At the age of 14, he already had to take care of his mentally-challenged parents and his older brother born with the Down syndrome. He spent an isolated youth among his peers and lost himself in the virtual reality, trying to escape from his problems.