“Death does not exist, there are only migrations”
“They left and behind them there was nothing. Nothing.” Tsernianski
“I always thought that Migrations was a capital work, says Petrovic. I have always really wanted to put it on screen, first of all because it is a wonderful story whose heroes are the marginalized population of Central Europe in the 18th century – and the marginalized are always interesting.
Second of all, I find it very relevant to present day, there is a striking parallelism between this time and our own, time of migrations and admixture, where the old rules have fallen without revealing new ones, where values have been lost and where people like in disorder and indiscipline, looking for something else that has not yet been born. It is this time of change and this confusion of the important moments of mutation that I want to express, all the while keeping a writer’s rhapsodic tone.”
|Production company:||Radio Televizija Srbije, Ekonomik trade
Milan Pejić 1994
|Executive production:||«TRI» Beograd, Yugoslav-French film|
|Screenplay:||After the novel “Migrations” by Miloš Crnjanski
Aleksandar Petrović in collaboration with Jacques Doniol-Valcroze
|Set designer:||Milenko Jeremić, Boris Moravec|
|Cinematography:||Witold Dabal, Igor Luther|
|Art director:||Coka Đorđević|
|Production:||Nikola Popović, Goran Crnjanski|
|Film editor:||Vuksan Lukovac|
|Costumes:||Jacques Fonteray, Divna Jovanović|
|Music:||XVII and XVIII Century marches
Serbian, Russian and Greek religious music
Dragan Mladenović – Thank the Lord
Olga Dusanić – Lord’s prayer
|Choice of music:||Aleksandar Petrović
|Cast:||Avtandil Makharadze, Isabelle Huppert, Richard Berry, Bernard Blier, Erland Josephson, Dragan Nikolić, Miki Manojlović, Rade arković, Petar Božović, Ljubomir Cipranić, Jelica Sretenović, Dobrica Jovanović, Jovan Burduš Janićijević, Ružica Sokić, Aljoša Vučković, Stole Aranđelović, Ivica Pajer, Mladen Krstevski, Martin Obernigg, Dragana Jugović, Branislav Jerinić, Tihomir Pleskonjić, Emanuel Cenčić, Gojko Baletić, Lazar Barakov, Milan Mihailović, Radko Polic, Marija Šipka, Miodrag Krivokapić, Branislav Lecić, Vladislava Milosavljević|
About the BOOK “MIGRATIONS” (Julliard-L’Age d’homme, 1986)
The film is inspired by serbian novelist Milos Tsernianski’s novel by the same name, that won the award for best foreign novel in France in 1986. It tells the story of the lives of the mercenaries in the Baroque Wars of the 18th century, when the Austro-Hungarian Empire ruled Serbia.
“A masterpiece of slavic literature.” LE POINT (1986).
The novel received the Best Foreign Novel in France.
“Tsernianski is a Melville haunted by Dostoyevsky. It took ten years to finish the translation of “Migrations”. It will take less time for it to take its place amongst the greatest works in slavic literature.”
Le Monde 8/8/1991 – Nicole Zand
“A masterpiece where the director of I Even Met Happy Gypsies, Alexander Petrovic, has achieved a still invisible superproduction.” Jean-Michel Frodon, Le Monde, August 8th 1991.
Migrations tells the fate of mercenaries during the baroque wars of the 18th century during the Austro-Hungarian occupation of Serbia. Austrian empress Maria-Theresa von Habsburg wants war with the French before taking on the Prussians. She sends Serbs, who in her opinion are not equal men, to the front lines. However, they are ready at all costs to reconquer a parcel of independence.
The movie follows the parallel fates of the two Isakovitch brothers, Vouk and Archange. The first (played by Avtandil Makharadze) leads a regiment of Serbian mercenaries who will fight the war until reaching France. The second (Richard Berry), a handsome and shrewd merchant, claims his sister-in-law Daphina (Isabelle Huppert) who he has cared for in the absence of his brother. Tragedy and death await at the end of the road…
Awards, honors, festivals
For SEOBE the serbian version of MIGRATIONS (modified by Aleksandar Petrovic to allow distribution in Serbia)
- 23rd Film Festival in Sopot, Serbia, July 1994: Kosmaj Prize
- International Film Festival of Palic, Serbia, July 1994
- 8th Yugoslav Film Festival of Herceg Novi, Montenegro, August 1994 (non competition)
- Screenwriting Festival of Vrnjacka banja, Serbia, August 1994
- International Film Festival of Montreal, Canada, August 1994 (non competition)
- 29th Film Festival – Actors’ meeting – Nis, Serbia, August 1994
- 27th Yugoslav Film Festival – Arandjelovac, Serbia, 1994
- 3rd Film Festival of Arena – Novi Sad, Serbia, September 1994: Arena of honor to Aleksandar Petrovic
- Cinema City International Film Festival – Novi Sad, Serbia, 2009 – Homage to the national writer Aleksandar Saša Petrović
The shooting of the film created a huge interest from the press. After production problems and the unfortunate death of Aleksandar Petrovic, Migrations (the french version) has never been released in France…
Consult an interview with Aleksandar Petrovic on the video clip of Festival Etonnants Voyageurs
Press Excerpts during the shooting of the film
“An exceptional film, both spectacular and intimate, with a magnitude and force believed to be lost; an action film, of emotions and ideas, who’s beauty takes your breath away and should make it travel across the globe…” – Le Figaro
Aleksandar Petrović about Migrations
From conversations with Frederic Vitoux:
“Not only did Milos Tsernianski write in MIGRATIONS the most important piece of Serbian literature, but surely one of the most powerful of the century, on par with THE MASTER AND MARGARITA. The director Alexander Petrovic, who in the past triumphed at Cannes with I EVEN MET HAPPY GYPSIES, could talk for hours with the same enthusiasm. He will achieve, finally, a thirty year old dream: adapt MIGRATIONS cinematographically in a Franco-Serbian coproduction nine months into filming and who’s first showing is scheduled for next April.
MIGRATIONS is the great novel of the Serbian diaspora of the 18th century. For three years the Turks have occupied Serbia who’s populations escaped to Austria. Some enlisted in the army of the empress Maria-Teresa. Others became merchants or artisans. But their belonging to the orthodox religion created obstacles to their social integration within the empire… The first book is initially poetic, the lyricism amalgamated to history” says Petrovic. “Each chapter has a title that resembles a verse, and this poetic resonance is broadcasted from page to page. In the second book, the narration is calmer and deeper. What mattered in the first part was the characters’ destinies. After that, the vision is extended. Each individual’s destiny personifies the destiny of a nation, which in turn personifies the destiny of humanity… Serbs, those marginal people of Central Europe shredded by history, survived centuries in the illusion of the promise land. They went from west to east, they believed in Austria they could find rest, and then they turned to Russia. In the end, the tragic destiny of this people is that they were looking elsewhere for something they had within themselves. For Tsernianski, death does not exist – only migrations do.”
With a magnitude and minutia that will leave you breathless, the author – a visionary of sorts – alternates between close-ups, the most secretive, most convulsive palpitations of any individual, and long shots, with the chaos and fracas of thousands of soldiers, armies and marching populations, such as in long panoramic shots filmed on 70 mm film. And always poetic brilliance, a fantastic climax that lights up the scene. Petrovic confesses: “It is this fantastique that I will develop in the film. It is neither external, nor artificial, but stems from the characters’ and situations’ intimacy. I think of Daphina who has a vampire side, demonic, or of Pavlé with his unfathomable melancholy who, for me, is one of the most beautiful characters in literature… Since 1957, after I first read Migrations, I wrote to Tsernanski, then I met him in London. At his return to Belgrade we met and clarified the adaptation project. He had seen “I Even Met Happy Gypsies” which took place in Vojvodina, the same setting as Migrations, and with the melancholy of the landscapes that drown themselves in the Danube, this same incurable melancholy that afflicts Pavlé, the same one we maybe see more of in Gypsies that in ourselves but one that exists in every human.”
Alexander Petrovic knows: adapting MIGRATIONS is crazy. But is there not already craziness in this book? Along with the tragic bursts, the metaphysical bursts, those big dreams that come crashing down?
LE NOUVEL OBSERVATEUR / LIVRES (1986) – Frédéric Vitoux
Throughout the history of a family, the epic of XVIII century Serbia. To free itself from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, this small population looks towards Russia. Time has divided this debate: however, not towards freedom, and not towards the Serbs.
A film is in preparation.
Here is already a large novel.
“It’s a book whose story can obviously not be told (however, the filmmaker Alexandar Petrovic will make a film out of it). Migrations simply brings out the world: villages, cottages, palaces, cities: multiple faces frozen by boredom, surprise or hatred; landscapes and rivers; everything starts at the Danube, every ends at the Dieper. The splendor of smells: the one that hangs above the farms during the early Autumn mornings; the smell of sweating horses and exhausted men; the smell of Viennese houses and palaces filled with women, divans and bouquets. All of this in a spiritual and desperate stampede. Tsernianski is a Melville haunted by Dostoyevski. It took ten years to finish the translation of Migrations. It will take less time for the novel to take its place amongst the masterpieces of slavic literature.
LE POINT (1986)
L’AGE D’HOMME publishes Migrations in 1986. The novel receives the AWARD FOR BEST FOREIGN NOVEL IN FRANCE.
Alexandre Petrovic shoots “MIGRATIONS”
A saga is becoming an extraordinary production
Extraordinary swamps of north Yugoslavia, lost villages of the 18th century, Moravian castles, these are some of the settings where Alexander Petrovic began filming “MIGRATIONS”, adapted from Milos Tsernianski’s saga. Men and horses participate actively: many actors for a spectacular filming with two destinations: a full feature film on the first part of the novel, and a television series of six episodes for the second.
“I am someone who has always thought that Migrations was a major work, says Petrovic. And I’ve always really wanted to bring it to a screen, first of all because it is a wonderful story whose heroes are marginalized from central Europe in the 18th century – and marginalized people are always interesting. Second of all, I find that it is very relevant, there is a striking parallelism between this time and our own, the times of Migrations and brewing, when the old laws have fallen into disuse without the appearance of new laws; when values have been lost and when people live in disorder and lack of discipline, looking for something that hasn’t yet been born. It’s this need for change and this confusion of big moments of change that I’m looking to express all the while keeping the rhapsody of the writer.”
The director of I even met happy gypsies brings in his new cinematic adventure Isabelle Huppert, Richard Berry and Avtandil Maharadze (georgian actor of Repentance) who form the central trio of the story. A serbian mercenary, Vuk Isakovic (Maharadze) goes to fight in the ranks of the Austrian army, leaving his young wife (Huppert) with his brother Archange (Berry), who burns with passion for her. They are joined by Bernard Blier, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Marina Vlady, Christine Laurent, many French and Yugoslavian actors in this epic saga whose most minor originality is to not have an original French version…” LE FIGARO (1987) – Marie-Noëlle Tranchant
Petrovic films “MIGRATIONS”
I EVEN MET A HAPPY DIRECTOR
With Isabelle Huppert and Richard Berry, he reconstitutes an episode
in the Serbian adventure of the 18th century
Springing onto his horse, an officer in a white cape and three-cornered black hat traces a fiery diagonal in the autumnal garden of this 17th century palace in old Zagreb. The heavy double-paned gate opens in front of a noisy harness whose coachman is accompanied by a valet presenting the effigy of a saint as an offering. In the back, enigmatic like a Van des Weyden portrait, her skin pale under her twisted braids and venetian blonde locks that frame her delicate face, protected by a large satin grey coat hemmed with white fur: Isabelle Huppert. Next to her, Richard Berry, hair pulled back and elongated on his neck with a “rat’s tail”, dressed in black, who provokes some chaos as he throws coins to a hoard of shabby beggars, half naked children that fight to pick them up while dodging the dogs and donkeys. Monks with long robes and cylindrical hats shoo them, while elegant bourgeois dressed in 18th century clothing observe the scene.
Perched on his crane in the silent cold air, Alexander Petrović controls these astonishing tableaux. Where another director would see a simple passing of carriages, he makes many actions meet that will feed the narrative with meaning, emotion, beauty and lyricism. With him, love and faith, politics and economics, the need for action and for dreams, the madness of men and the indecipherable mystery of destiny concretely weave the weft of Migrations, this historical fresco written by the Serbian writer Milos Tsernianski.
“With this film, cinema reminds itself that it encompasses all the other art forms”, Isabelle Huppert tells me during a break. After the United States, Australia, Poland and Italy, her “image” is constantly remade. “But being an actress, it’s being in a state of strangeness”, she notes. “And acting, it’s trying to escape from yourself. Daphina, that I play: her husband, Vouk (played by the Georgian legend Avtandil Maharadze, who made his break in “Repentance”), a Serbian mercenary who went to war in 1747 with the Austrians, left her with their children to his brother Archange, played by Richard Berry. But Archange, who already secretly loved Daphina, brings her to a man (that is the scene that we just filmed) to get her marriage annulled. Cursing her husband for having abandoned her, resisting to her brother-in-law, colliding with herself and others, Daphina is in permanent conflict. But I’m feeling well in touch with her troubles, because like Daphina at the beginning of the film, I am pregnant…”
More mysteriously beautiful than ever, Richard Berry doesn’t often play Casanovas… “If Archange shakes the skies and the earth, it’s because with this wild love and pain, he discovers the ability to surpass himself. It’s possible because with Petrović, everything is Baroque, over-sized. He uses everything that is possible for him, down to the dregs. He is the master of this work at every level. This time, the admiration that I have for a filmmaker is rewarding. I can day dream with this ambiguous Archange. I’m enjoying participating in an exceptional film, at once spectacular and intimate, of a scale and force that we thought was lost, a film of action, emotion and ideas. And on top of that, breathtakingly beautiful, which makes it a full package…”
In the effervescence of the preparation of the next step, Petrović walks slowly with his head down. But on his way, he caresses a horse’s nose, to thank it for its’ participation.
“We must give back to cinema its’ real dimension, he says, to attain a level of spectacle for the soul as well as for the eyes.”
LE FIGARO (1987) – Gilbert Guez.
Isabelle Huppert shoots MIGRATIONS by Alexandar Petrović in Yugoslavia…
Isabelle is all sensibility and all passion. Alexandar Petrović did not make a mistake. He trusted her with a superb role in his film next to Richard Berry. She plays the wife of a mercenary engaged in the wars of the 18th century. A grandiose fresco that is being filmed right now in Yugoslavia…”
VOICI (1988) Stéphane Singlard
“… With a team of 280 international actors, the Franco-Yugoslavian production is based on an epic novel that won the Best Foreign Novel in France in 1986. The historical saga on two generations of Serbian emigrants in the 18th century, that incorporates numerous battles and love stories, is imagined as a production that will last for 2 years for a feature film and a television series of six episodes. The director, Petrović, who was nominated at the Oscars for his war film TRI and I EVEN MET HAPPY GYPSIES, had political troubles in Yugoslavia, but now he is back, in a climate of “new looks,” reuniting stars of French cinema and the soviet sensation Maharadze…
The Director of photography Igor Luther, a gem of an artist, is already known for his work in Volker Schlödorff’s “The Drum”.
FILM AND FILMING (Great Britain) 1987 – John Helford
Comments collected by Boro Draskovic – “POLITIKA” during the filming of MIGRATIONS in 1987 in Yugoslavia:
Richard Berry on Alexander Petrović – Sacha
“… I love the way that Sacha Petrović understands everything, sees and is capable of talking about the rosary you hold, the ring, the socks, the pocket you will need… just as much as he can talk about the movement of the camera, the lighting, the food that we will eat… I think that I have never met any director like him… He is brilliant. Completely open to people, he knows how to gain the respect and the trust of his collaborators, those of the actors including mine…”
Igor Luther (director of photography) talks about Alexander Petrović
“… Sacha Petrović has inspiration and a lot of hope that we are going to make a valuable film, the one that everyone wants to see… I really love the style that is not narrative, and the fact that Sacha has an objective approach on the theme of Migrations, not simply exposing the images and the historical facts. The filming of Migrations, is an enterprise of great importance and exceptional scale, with the permanent change of faces, landscapes and seasons. This enchants me. I’m very happy…”
Story of a confiscated film
Who will free “Migrations”
Petrović’s film is imprisoned in Clamart
At the back of a film lab in Clamart, an exceptional film that audiences are not allowed to see has been housing for five months. The reason for this imposed clandestinity: murky conflicts between producers and financiers- discrete maneuvers to slow down the process by the Yugoslavian administration. All of this stupid enough to cry over, except for the lawyers, who are probably quite proud of themselves.
Title of the film: Migrations. Director: Aleksandar Petrović. Actors: Isabelle Huppert, Richard Berry, Bernard Blier, etc. A black and red story filmed on the edge of the Danube. Horses, mud and blood. Violence without the significance of war. The drama of a dominated people. On this background, a passion both pretty and sad like the long clouds above the river.
Migrations is a large novel. The story of its birth is itself a grey and gold epic. Its author, Milos Tsernianski, is born in Serbia in 1893. In August 1914, he is drafted into the Austrian army: mercenary. He will be forced to fight against his own country. Migrations comes directly out of this morally insufferable situation. In 1929, he writes and finishes his novel. In 1941, he flees the occupation of Belgrade and goes to London. To survive, he works ten jobs: driver, waiter, employee… He doesn’t complain. In 1949, he starts writing the second part of his book. It is published in 1963. It is an instant success. Tsernianski returns to Belgrade. Around 1975, he learns that he is sick. Two years later, he dies; some say that he let himself die.
The story continues. In 1986, Migrations comes out in French published by L’Age d’Homme. Newfound surprise in front of this book. In Yugoslavia, the book is still relevant. It’s then that Aleksandar Petrović decides to bring this huge machine to the screen.
Objective: a two-hour film covering the first volume. Then six hours for the rest of the book, on the small screen. Isabelle Huppert and Richard Berry have the roles of the cursed lovers. Filming lasts during a little less than a year in Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. The film is finished. Unfortunately, for now, this monument stays a legend. The river, the horses, the Austrians, the mercenaries and the lovers rest in traditional round tin boxes.
Curious destiny. As if the curse that followed the novel for years keeping it from being published now falls onto the film. But the theme seems banal. Marie-Theresa, empress of Austria (18th century) wants war with the French before going after the Prussians: music, uniforms and fantasy. The dead don’t count for anything. Marie-Theresa expedites the Serbs in front of the canons
because for her, they are not exactly human. Yet they are ready to do anything to reclaim a parcel of independence. They of course fail and their descendants will choose exile towards the country of freedom: Russia. Unfortunately for them, Russia is an ocean in which all will drown.
On this theme, two screenwriters, Aleksandar Petrović and Jacques Doniol-Valcroze (for whom this will be one of his last works) create a tragic story that closely follows the novel. Who will create the sumptuous baroque images and the parallel hopelessness of these lives?
We would like to understand why this spectacular film is not allowed to see the light of day. If it’s a money question, it would be reasonable to offer this to the attention of the spectators. After all, it is them and only them that pay to see, admire and dream. The eternal merchants of Venice would finally earn their pound of flesh.
Georges SUFFERT. LE FIGARO. November 16 1989
The Directors Fortnight in Cannes
Migrations was part of the program of the Directors Fortnight in Cannes in May 1994. The poster and the press book were ready. Unfortunately, for murky reasons, the co-producers prevented its distribution, and Petrović, at this time between life and death at the hospital, could not intervene. The film was never shown at Cannes.
Quote from press book:
“… Petrović has created a lyrical fresco of stupefying force. A sort of roman apocalyptic torrent takes the characters in the chaos of battles and atrocities, in the melancholy of massacred hopes and desperate loves. The immense talent of the director of “I even met happy gypsies,” “The Master and Margarita” and “Group Portrait with a Lady” was needed to bring to this magnificently crazy and audacious enterprise. It is a grand cosmic film full of noise and fury.” Jacques Doniol-Valcroze.
Le Monde 08/08/1991 – Jean-Michel Frodon
INTERVIEW WITH THE DIRECTOR ALEXANDER PETROVIĆ
“How to still believe?”
Le Figaro Magazine 04/10/1999 – Jean-Christophe Buisson
Balkans are Serbians crazy?
“Aleksandar Petrović: gone since five years, this director left three major films. I even met happy gypsies, grand Jury Prize at Cannes in 1967, a brilliant adaptation of The Master and Margarita by Boulgakov, and namely Migrations, inspired by Tsernianski’s novel, with Richard Berry, Isabelle Huppert and Bernard Blier. A 1989 film curiously still unknown in France.