Can you talk about your background?
Klaudija Matvejevaite: I was born in Vilnius in 1995. My mother is from a small town in central Lithuania and my father is from Pavlohrad, a city in Eastern Ukraine. I spent twelve years in an art school, where I specialized in graphic arts, and while other kids would hang out by the river, my friends and I would sit in a classroom and make etchings and woodcuts. It was a great time.
What was the inspiration behind The Last Day?
K.M.: The script is based on a short story by Jaroslavas Melnikas, a Ukrainian author who writes in Lithuanian. The piece had a dark, very emotional, very Slavic feel to it, but it also caught my attention because it was about waiting for death, and my grandmother was very sick at the time I first read it. There was a strange tension in the family – we were afraid of the inevitable moment but also hoping for it, as it would make things easier for grandma and for us as well. I wanted to talk about our inability, as a family, to be open about the way we felt. I thought it was normal and human, but still worth sharing with an audience.
What is The Last Day about according to you?
K.M.: When you’re studying Film, they always tell you there must be only one central thing the story is about, otherwise it won’t work. But, I disagree. Every day in our lives is about many different things, and they intertwine in certain ways. In the end, they become one unique emotion, one theme, but you can’t really name it because it’s a cocktail of sorts. For me, it’s the same with films. But, if I had to pick certain words, I’d say The Last Day is about isolation, communication and love.
Why are you preoccupied with death?
K.M.: Well, there isn’t life without death, is there? I think I’m more preoccupied with the theme of departing. Leaving certain people, places, periods of your life. It’s just that death works better in a story, because it’s final and inevitable, and drives the characters to the point of showing their true selves.
Would it be fair to say that the message of your film is “Carpe Diem”?
K.M.: I think love is the message of every film, one way or another. In this case, I wanted to talk about the expression of love. I’m not always good at communicating my feelings and it bothers me sometimes. In The Last Day, the father punches his son and forces him to the ground. This is the first time we see them in actual contact. I’s a way of showing love, too. Obviously, I’m not saying parents should beat their children to show love. But sometimes the ways we show what we feel are clumsy, and it’s fine – we are always learning. So, yes, “Carpe Diem”, but in a slightly different way: “Get the most out of every day by learning something about others and about yourself.”
The Last Day is made by women. Can you talk about that?
K.M.: The people I made the film with are my good friends. When I first started in this industry, I was very scared that I wouldn’t find people who would see things the way I see them and I would have to work very hard to explain what I want to do. Now, I hardly do any explaining to my team at all, as we know each other so well – flaws and all. It’s a lot of fun: we gossip, we go to parties, and we make films. I think a woman’s process of thinking is different from a man’s – there are exceptions, of course – and having many women in my team makes things a lot easier.
What is, according to you, the situation of women in the Lithuanian film industry, especially the up-and-coming talent? And, in the film industry in general? Are there differences?
K.M.: Just this week we had the first meeting for our new short film. All eight people in that meeting, all the department heads, were women. I think this answers the question – women in the Lithuanian film industry are active and their voices heard. However, also very recently, a petition was signed by many Lithuanian film professionals about gender equality and respect towards women in the industry, as there have been a few scandals earlier this year. I feel the driving force behind this was not the quantity of women in the industry, but the quality of communication between people in general. There are still people who think that being in the field of Art allows them to be unapologetic. This happens mostly with people born and raised in the Soviet times. I think it’s a paradox that the younger generation seems to have more respect towards other people. I’m honestly surprised every day how strong, outspoken, and sensitive my friends and colleagues are.
What is your opinion of short films?
K.M.: They are very much fun to make. You don’t have a lot of time for production, so it’s all hot and quick and happens in the blink of an eye. You don’t have the time to get tired or bored, or distanced from the story. Sadly, I often feel that people use short films as an expression of form rather than substance. That makes me think that a short’s ability to convey emotion is underrated. There is a belief that if you want to tell a truly moving story, you need a lot of time, and shorts are often used to show cool visuals, new techniques, while the stories tend to be anecdotes. But, I’ve seen many feature films that would have worked better as shorts as they were too long and boring, and many shorts that had too much going on in them. So, in the end, you need to find balance in every film, long or short.
Who is your inspiration?
K.M.: My man, my friends, and my parents. I’m lucky to have surrounded myself with people that are honest, loving, intelligent, and not afraid of admitting their flaws, and they all make me very happy.
What are your next projects?
K.M.: A very exciting project is an upcoming vacation. But, before that, I am making another short about family trouble, called When You Cross the River. It’s a kaleidoscope of my childhood memories, rearranged and intensified and made into a story about a girl who is torn between helping her dysfunctional family to get back on track and leaving with a lovely man to create her own family. I’m also continuing to work as a casting director and I dream about becoming a travel guide.
This interview was conducted at the 2018 Vilnius Film Festival.