Anna Aleksandrova

Check out the full interview with Anna below...

My project is based on a true story of Lise Meitner and Otto Hahn. In fact, all the factual information such as not receiving a Nobel Prize after working on a project for over 30 years, as well as not even being mentioned in his Nobel Prize reception speech- everything is true. And, it is also true that the science community of the time was shocked and rather appalled by such cruel betrayal of Otto Hahn. (Especially, that the Prize was awarded after the WWII was over, and there couldn’t have been an excuse of being afraid of Hitler and his system.) Later, Lise Meitner was awarded her own element on the periodic table of elements, which presents much greater honor and more of a rarity than the Nobel. That was both the statement of her achievement and a strong response from the science community. All of that is mentioned in our film as well.

While all of this is true, what my film is focusing on is the relationship between Otto and Lise. They are in a dream, and, therefore, have much greater freedom to speak their minds freely, and to talk about things they could have never talked about in reality. Well, to be simple, they talk about love, and Lise is very vulnerable and very honest with Otto about her feelings. That vulnerability creates a response in Otto, it touches him and brings him to regret his actions, and his inability to give her the true value that she always deserved. And he wants to keep her, and walk with her, and talk with her, and understand her… yet, it’s a dream… 

I’ve learned about the story of Lise Meitner when I was taking history of science class and I was very touched and taken by her story. I couldn’t understand how such horrific betrayal could have happened to such wonderful and kind person. I’ve read a lot about Lise Meitner and her love for physics as well as her work-friendship relationship with Otto. I was also studying French film, theater, as well as science, and I wrote a short play with two very opposite characters who had one thing in common. The two characters were Brigitte Bardot and Lise Meitner. They were very different indeed, but had one thing in common- the story of love and betrayal that affected their lives so deeply. 

Later, when I started making films, I remembered Lise Meitner’s story and thought it would be interesting to create a feature film about her. And part of the film should be a dream, and another part reality. And so I wrote a short film that was a dream- her conversation with Otto that she never had or never could have. In other words, in this dream she talks about things that she couldn’t talk about at all. 

In a future, I would like this to be a part of a bigger story about her life, her love for physics, her love for Otto, and her love for people and music as well. I continue the research and I am currently working on a larger script for a feature film about her.

I am a classical musician- pianist. I was professionally trained since childhood and studied with various exceptional artists and received a number of honors in that regard. I have also studied theatrical arts rather in depth as an actor, director, and a script writer. And I had a great honor of having some incredible teachers in the field of theater, such as Mike King, Craig Bacon, the incredible Susan Aston and a wonderful play-write Ed Baker. 

The first movieI I watched that affected me would, probably, be a film by Mark Zaharov: “Baron Munhgausen” and also film by Coppola “The Godfather”. My father was watching both a lot when I was little, and I watched them with him. Also, a film “To Kill a Dragon” by Mark Zaharov. I’ve always admired Oleg Yankovsky as an actor. 

The film that really affected me and brought a true interest in filmmaking was “Mirror” by Andrey Tarkovsky. The combination of poetry, sincerity, and just unleashed emotionality really touched me deeply when I first watched  “Mirror”.

Directors that inspire me: Martin Scorsese,  Steven Spielberg, Michelangelo Antonioni, Fellini, Andrey Tarkovsky, Mark Zaharov. 

Favorite movies: I have a lot of favorite movies. I watch a lot of films of various genres. But if I would have to chose certain films that affected me as a filmmaker rather deeply, those would be “Taxi Driver” by Martin Scorsese, “Mirror””Andrey Rublev” and “Nostalgia” by Tarkovsky, “Il Grido” by Antonioni, “La Strada” by Fellini, “Paradise” by Konchalovsky, “The Promised Heaven” by Eldar Ryasanov (with incredible Lia Achedjakova who deserves an award for her truthful position today.) “Forest Gump” by Zemeckis, “Schindler’s List”, “The Terminal” and “Catch me if you Can” by Spielberg, “The Shawshank Redemption” by Darabont, “Wonder Wheel” by Woody Allen, “Revolutionary Road” by Sam Mendes, and there are a lot more films that I love! I also very much enjoy a good comedy and romantic comedies as well. I think it is good to see a variety of films, and it is always very interesting to see new works by various filmmakers in the art house.

A few years ago, when I was still living in New York, and as a good New Yorker drinking coffee and working on my adaptation of “Master and Margarita” by Bulgakov, I really enjoyed taking a train all the way to Montauk (it’s a very tip of the island surrounded by the ocean on both sides) to get away from the city. I would take a train, go to the ocean and make photographs of a harbor during the sunset. I would stand in water for hours trying to catch different kind of lighting… and that’s when I realized that I really love the process of catching a certain color, certain shade on camera. I realized how I liked things to be caught on camera. Those moments that we always talked about in theater suddenly made sense to me on camera. I started looking at film schools and I found London Film School. I watched their films and I knew I really wanted to go there. Then, also in New York, I met a person from Hollywood who was working as a steady cam operator for Woody Allen, and he invited me a few times to come and see the shooting. Of course people shoot films in New York all the time, but it was sort of an incredible experience to see such a great director constantly being in interaction with his actors and simply walking around and always talking very directly and personally to all of them. My parents watched a lot of his films when I was growing up, and, in general, I’ve always enjoyed his films. He’s very intellectual director. 

So, I thought to myself, if I’m going to make films, I have to go to Europe first, because film to me starts in Europe. I’ve always admired European filmmakers and, especially, legendary Italian and French filmmakers such as Fellini, Antonioni, and Jean-Luc Godar. So, I did just that. I went back to Ukraine, and started going back and forth to Europe and making films.

I didn’t really encounter much challenges when making this film. It was rather smooth experience. But I guess there was one challenge. I wrote the script and planned the film to be a one shot. It was very important for me, because I wanted the film to have a flavor of theatricality and the unity of a moment. I choreographed the camera steps, and we went over them with my cinematographer, Lukas, but when I was watching them film from my director’s spot, they went a little too fast. So, we talked in a break and came to the conclusion that it would be much better if I stood behind the camera and walked all the steps together with the camera, just so everyone could keep the right pace. So, I sort of guided the camera that way, since the steps were rather complicated and we only had so much time to take more takes and not to exhaust the actors. 

The next take we did together was very well taken by the team and the actors, and it seemed like we were on a right path this time. We shot a few more takes, and all of them went very well.

Well, the casting was rather difficult for the Otto’s part. My friend and colleague from Actors Studio Drama School, Esther Sophia Artner, was set to play Lise as soon as I wrote the script. But I had to find the right Otto. And it was a bit of a challenge. Not everyone understood Otto or could see him in a way I think an actor should see his character- without judgment. And it becomes difficult sometimes to find an actor who could both love and understand the character that did something that’s difficult to comprehend and play the character without looking down upon him. As an actor you would have to not only accept, but love and cherish this person that you would normally detest. You had to see the world from his point of view and make his point valid. It is extremely difficult thing to do. When I met Max, I immediately realized that he is able to do it. It was such a rarity. He understood Otto rather well and he just embodied his inner world as if he knew him for a long time. It was truly wonderful. And I think Esther and Max made a wonderful ensemble together and created very truthful and very sincere experience of those two souls talking to each other in that very intimate, very delicate, and fragile piece of subconscious reality that we call a dream. 

As far as postproduction, we did it together with my cinematographer, Lukas Rosatti, and there was a lot of work that involved matching the music to a certain part of the film. I chose the music and assigned it to the certain parts of the film. And Lukas helped me to put it together And there also was a lot of rotoscoping on Lukas’s part, which he did very well with since the film is in black and white and there was a lot of cleaning up to do.

I didn’t really show it to the bigger audiences yet, because it is submitted to various festivals at this point. However, those few private people I showed it to, loved it very much. I’ve received a lot of very sincere and extremely kind compliments in regards to this film. 

Well, if a filmmaker always sticks to classic cinema styles, and doesn’t bring anything original, I would say we’d call that person more of a film follower rather than a maker. I am convinced that the main idea of filmmaking is originality. 

Film festivals are our biggest blessing and they are extremely important. They give an opportunity for all of us to see and to interact with each other. And, perhaps, to  inspire more filmmaking! They give an artist something that’s extremely necessary- an ability to show his/her work to a bigger audience. They are, definitely, essential. 

I was honored with an invitation from London Film School to come and be a part of their Masters in Filmmaking program. It is my very dream school of filmmaking. I had to delay the program because of war and family circumstances, but I am finally starting it this year. 

Also, I am working on a few scripts. One is a romantic comedy about filmmaking, in fact, and I would like to shoot it rather soon. Another one is a full feature film about Lise. There are also a few short short dramatic scripts I have in mind, and I will, hopefully, have a chance to shoot them at LFS. 

And, I am still hoping to shoot a documentary about Ukraine in somewhat near future. Another project I’ve been working on and planning for sometime. The war brought its challenges to it. But we will get there. 

Thank you for this inspiring interview and for taking the time to honestly answer all the questions. The BIA team wishes you great success with your next projects!