Rajko Grlić writes for Telegram.hr
In the small inside pocket of a velvet jacket, I found a note that tries to answer the question I am most often asked: “How are love scenes filmed?”
“Love scenes”, which is a euphemism for those sweet-simple things that are not talked about out loud in good families, are not recorded easily or quickly. Moreover, these recordings are not overly pleasant for the actors or the team, not to mention the director. Above them, especially at the beginning, there is always some tension, discomfort. And while they are there, it is difficult to record a scene that smells a bit of life.
”You Love Only Once” (”Samo jednom se ljubi”) was a film that tried to say that the touch of the skin is stronger than all ideologies, so “love scenes”, as evidence of this thesis, are represented in it in impressive numbers.
A recording call that changed everything
For a long time, a few months before the filming, I started talking to Vladislava Milosavljević and Predrag Manojlović about what we were going to do and how. She was insecure, reserved, and he was brave. I remember how amused he was by her timidity, how he annoyed her with stories that close-ups would be filmed afterward with professional porn actors.
To keep the discomfort to a minimum, we organized a recording of these scenes over the course of a week. Another mitigating circumstance was that we did them in the studio so that Pico Pinter could make a general light and still work with very small corrections. In short, we were both fast and isolated. In addition, we fulfilled Vladica’s wish that only those who really had to be there, should be around the camera.
”You Love Only Once” (Image: www.rajkogrlic.com)
The first day of filming did not bring us good material. The second day was a little, not much, better. On the third day, just when we started, the assistant producer came requesting for Vladica to answer the phone because her mother needed her urgently. Vladica jumped out of bed and ran to the door that leads from the studio to the hallway where there are wardrobes, make-up artists, and production. She returned after a few minutes saying there was nothing urgent.
Love scenes have to move the story forward
She didn’t even notice that she left and came back completely naked. We watched her and started laughing. She understood why we were laughing, spread her arms, and shrugged with laughter. Shyness, fear, discomfort, and everything that hovered above us suddenly disappeared. The third day was more than successful.
In that filming, I learned that the first day of filming such scenes, sometimes even days, can be calmly, and in advance, considered lost. That the actresses in the rehearsals are full of fear and apprehension, while the actors in that phase are strikingly brave. On the set itself, things sometimes turn around. They are much braver here and once they relax they work great. Actors, unlike actresses, very often lose their courage at that very moment, become timider, have too many questions.
I learned something else, perhaps most important: that these scenes have their place in the composition of the film, that, as critics would say, they are justified only when they are ambiguous, when in them, besides touching the skin, we can read something more, something that enriches those faces, something that moves the story forward.
Detailed rehearsals of Verica and Tony at the hotel
We filmed ”The Border Post” (”Karaula”) many years later in similar conditions. We filmed all the love scenes in the studio, an abandoned depot in Ohrid where we built her apartment. It was then that I realized that what I learned by doing ”You Love Only Once” is not always the rule. That the material on the first day of filming love scenes can be thrown away peacefully was repeated here. But the fact that he is braver in the rehearsals and she is more frightened that it would be the other way around on the set, did not happen here.
Toni Gojanović and Verica Nedeska in ”The Border Post”. (Image: www.karaulafilm.com)
Verica Nedeska was braver in the preparations and on the set than Toni Gojanović, for whom, unlike her, it was his first film and he had no experience, not only with such scenes, but with filming in general.
During the rehearsals, Verica felt a little uneasy with Tony, and one day she came up with a suggestion that we should take a room in the hotel where we are staying, that she and Tony should take off their clothes, go to bed and I would explain to them, scene by scene, what they will do, where the camera will be, what will be seen and what will not.
How his whole life leaked out of the scene
A make-up artist was standing next to me in the hotel room, knowing what awaited her, and I was slowly explaining to Verica and Toni what, where and how I intended to film it. We went through movement after movement, scene after scene, seeing what was possible, what wasn’t, and most importantly: how they feel about it. After that rehearsal, we were sure we knew exactly what we were going to do and how we were going to do it.
But despite that, the first day of filming did not bring us anything good. When we got back to the hotel, I spent hours looking at that material and thinking about where the mistake was. And it lay in the fact that we all knew everything, that the scene became mechanical and that life flowed out of it and with it the most important thing: eros.
For the next day, I prepared small and slightly bigger surprises, talked to her alone and separately, gave them small tasks that the other person didn’t know about, and the shooting went surprisingly smoothly.
‘Bata’ Živojinović in tiger shorts
It’s a whole other story when those scenes are done in a comedy. It is then a difficult, perhaps the most difficult “love-stage” discipline. So, in ”In the Jaws of Life”, I had with me the experienced ‘Bata’ Živojinović, a hero of partisan films who walks around in tiger shorts and for whom this was perhaps the first love scene in more than three hundred films he made, while opposite him was Vitomira Lončar, on her first film, covered only with a transparent veil of a wedding dress.
But that is a long story from another pocket that I wouldn’t take out now. What my father, who apropos of “love scenes” used to complain about me calling him to premieres, not rehearsals, used to say: “Play, play, and hit the belt.”
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