Leto is the movie by Kirill Serebrennikov about the little-known early period of life of the cult rock artist Victor Tsoi and his environment. It’s based on real characters, who lived in 80s in Leningrad. This film is an attempt to transmit a spirit of that age, its freedom. Ease of life without regard to the surrounding empire of USSR. Reminiscence of how we felt the end of the Soviet era and dreamed about the future.
The story based on a love triangle of Tsoi, Mike Naumenko and his wife Natasha.
The visual approach consists of two big components. Intimate world of characters, and world of the state around. Though the movie does not represent musicians as a rebels against the system and harbingers of its falling, they leave absolutely different, independent life, full of freedom. Everything that they have is music. Material world does not represent any value for them. Their environment is a small space which they create around themselves, it is poor and exists only for companionship. These are Mike and Grebenshchikov's apartments, Mike's closet at the plant, rehearsal rooms, a home concert interior. The fact that they live in historical apartments with difficult history, with the atmosphere unique for each hero, is characteristic. The external world is opposite, it’s USSR state. It consists of public transport, streets, plants, dining rooms, concert hall. It is based on logic and expressed in functional minimalism of architecture 70s, in industrial power of the factories, in large-scale propaganda, in mass production. Sometimes these spaces mutually entwine, as it happens in rock club where the hall and the stage public, and the behind the scenes with make-up rooms belongs to musicians.
Of course a certain hero is also the city itself. It is full of history and feeds generations of artists.
Leningrad rock club was a cult place. Here the Russian rock was born and all his admirers met there. Continuous movement on a Steadicam was chosen to insert us in its atmosphere. That way gave us transitions from large to the general, change of portraits of heroes and transition from one space into another. In a first scene we get inside the rock club together with girls through a window into a men’s toilet, along the corridor we pass through several make-up rooms, equipment warehouse, further again through a corridor and we get behind the scenes, sideways from a scene we pass to the auditorium. Shooting with one long shot set a task of the special spaces organization. They must be prepared by 360 degrees, on all perimeter. The rock club was the most difficult for us since besides actually club we needed all infrastructure - make-up rooms, corridors, ladders, space behind the scenes, a toilet. All of them have to be bound with each other, have the right atmosphere. First of all we went to real club, but it was totally reconstructed, with fresh wall paint. Having found suitable space on character and scale for the concert hall, we had to do other rooms.
At our first meeting with group Kirill told that he wants to shoot film in black and white. This decision was dictated by desire to create a historical environment and to make the movie visually organized.
But we planned the inserts of documentary material, shot on colour 8 mm film by actors in frame, therefore we decided that all shots will be built also harmonized in colour. For me primary colour was red, everything was based on it, its opposite and derivative colours. The palette was set around a colour of wood in average tone, with transitions to olive, dark brown, ochre and a terracotta.
The scene of club was changed to get closer to its historical rock club look. The scenes opening was different proportions and we narrowed it. A floor length had to be increased for more complicated movement in a shot. Finally it wasn’t similar architecturally to original, but was true on spirit. Its character was expressed first of all by the texture of the thick, burst oil paint over the remade stucco molding, a dusty darned curtain, wooden chairs and of course the old light equipment. Creating image without colour, we played different degree of gloss - a waxed parquet, wood, polished with legs, tiles, dusty boards. All that surfaces created to us right character of the environment. And the correct time details gave to us, they were musical instruments, microphones, posters, furniture, props of all kind.
Mike's apartment was another big complex. It was the communal flat for 6 families where 4 rooms used for family living, and the others were empty and were used for rehearsals. In that place we could see Russian history from tsar time till our days. Once magnificent apartment of the profitable house with art deco ceilings and carved doors, it was turned into living space for many families, it is visible on a ceiling in rooms how big and rich hall was divided into smaller rooms. Huge windows, made with one piece of whole glass, were divided irregularly into small weaving with window leaves, and the locking accessories remained former. Wall-papers somewhere remained pre-revolutionary, somewhere were soviet. They all lost their colour intensity with time. Almost all sets we were looking on locations. It gave us real backgrounds, complicated patina and details that are impossible to create in a small budget.
Mike's room consisted of 4 zones - the bedroom, his work place, the dining area and child's in a corner with a fireplace. The set was simple and poor and consisted of the minimum set of objects. The big rack in a corner was made by Mike. Many objects were remade and adapted under new mission. Some things and main poster on a wall were originals from Mike. The kitchen was completely changed by us as recently it was abandoned and was used only by one resident from time to time.
The movie, being the musical, consists of shades of emotions. Collected together, they were weaved into one piece of music where each episode represented a separate part of that world.
Stairwell to Grebenshchikovs apartment as the rock club was irrevocably changed. Huge galvanized lift well was installed there. We look for similar one and did our frescos there. The stair throughout 5 floors was painted by fans with lipstick, handles and pencils, grafting, we also changed windows and doors there.