A Word from the Director

Theme and Setting

The theme and setting of Soul at Peace are purely Slovak.  Despite this, the film transcends the geographical borders of its creation and appeals to viewers abroad as well.  It was my feature film debut but I hope that, because of my experience directing documentaries, I was able to fully exploit my previous experience in the telling of this story.

Genre


Rather than trying to precisely capture the reality that is typical for documentaries, my intention was to bring to the viewer a creative and unique reflection on the times we live in. The film strives to reflect the paradoxes of the period directly following accession to the European Union and illustrate the contrast to national traditions.
The film tells a story about people living in Slovakia, a small country in the heart of Europe, at the beginning of the 21st century. The Slovak people are at once brooding and proud, and it is this pride, which does not allow them to show their emotions. Therefore, everyone has their own way of solving their personal dramas. In this story each character bears a share of the guilt. We all created our own unique, isolated system that helped us survive the years of communist dictatorship. And today it is harder and harder to break out of this system of relationships and structures.

Locations

We shot the film in Čierny Balog, in a place where the mountains are picturesque, but their steepness clearly parallels the locals’ tough everyday life. On the other hand, through the character of Peter, we show the dramatic contrast between the village and a fast-growing big city that rapidly absorbs all negative and positive aspects of life, typical of West European cities. Both the village and city struggle to find their identities under the new conditions of our Central European "Carpathian capitalism". This issue is rather specific, yet highly inspiring for citizens of Western Europe. My intention was to maintain the authenticity of the settings with minimum embellishment and to provide the viewer with a real feeling of the "here and now".

Style and Form


It seems as if the steep hills in this region have protected a tradition that never fades. An urban visitor is impressed with the beauty and romance of the region but does not see the everyday drama and often unbelievable stories that take place behind the fences and doors of ordinary houses. Behind every door you would find a tradition of patriarchy and poaching, but also bonds of life-long friendship that are so rare these days. The visual aspect of the film is not dominant - it underlies and accentuates the storytelling. Shots of the picturesque countryside alternate with scenes where the camera moves gently and, just like an observer, watches the authentic story which unfolds unseen behind the front door.

Casting


The most important criterion was to choose actors that would be authentic in their roles. We have four dominant male characters, all of them around the age of forty. They all come from the rough, mountainous countryside and their faces are untouched by male grooming products. We can see every triumph and failure in their faces. Rather than choosing popular faces I gave priority to excellent performances by actors that may not yet be that famous.  For the actors, each character is in fact very complex and never one-dimensional.