The evening before our interview with Chulpan Khamatova we watched a clip of her much vaunted Irish dancing figure- skating performance with Roman Kostomarov in the TV show ‘Ice Age’ on Youtube. She said somewhere that she is a big fan of all things Irish, but that was hardly the reason for her overwhelming success. At the start of the piece, the cameraman caught a fleeting shot of her face as she stood behind her partner, and it was clear from that fleeting glimpse that she was totally focussed on victory, and victory – as it turned out - was willing to reciprocate. So why does it seem that Chulpan so much less focussed on her own personal success in her chosen profession, as an actress?
Looking further on Youtube, you can find excerpts from ‘The Gift of Life’, a very significant project undertaken by Chulpan and fellow actress Dina Korzun. Neither of them appear in shot – the camera only shows children who are fighting to overcome terrible illnesses, for the most part cancer. It then becomes clear why Chulpan is unbeatable on ice, because when she enters the fray, she battles to the finish. She is, as she points out in her interview, battling not for herself, but for the one or two people out there, the minority in any situation, who want to feel, learn, understand, and also for those who due to the cruelty of fate, do not have the luxury of that choice.
DE I: …When I was on my way here for this interview, I noticed an advertising poster with the slogan ‘Do you believe in miracles?’ I smiled and thought that each time that each time your image comes into my head, it’s close to the fact that you believe in miracles, in the impossible – that’s what I associate with you. Is this really the case?
C.K.: It’s very nice to hear that I create such associations. Really terrific. Yes, I believe in miracles. I believe there is something special in our lives, something that is not up to us. Something is pushing us along, like little yellow leaves floating on water, directing us towards the shore where we either climb on to dry land, or float away again, over and over again.
That’s perhaps why I find life is quite easy for me. A lot easier than for some other people. I feel that I to do whatever it is I have to do without getting upset or worrying if something doesn’t work out at all, or works out not quite how I had expected, because at the end of the day life is something I can’t really fully understand. And no-one living on the Planet Earth can understand it. We can only try and touch up against it and try to feel what it means to live. But to understand it is impossible.
DE I: As I understand it, right from childhood you had no doubts about the existence of something like reincarnation…
C.K.: I didn’t have any doubt at all. In school, in about 8th grade, I saw a UFO – a huge spaceship that just cast darkness over the entire town. You can laugh at me all you like, but it really happened. At about 14 or 15 I really wanted to have a ‘beauty spot’ on my neck. I didn’t have one, but wanted it to appear because I thought that my first ever kiss should be not on the lips but on the neck. And soon afterwards, I noticed that a beauty spot actually had appeared. One day there was nothing, the next it appeared. Naturally I attribute this to the aliens, but all the same, I stopped being surprised by a lot of things and now I believe in everything – in stories about Yetis, the Loch Ness monster…I believe in everything. I believe there are things some people see, and some people don’t. Our whole life is a mystery. But you can make sense of that on when you’re in a state of calm, when everything is alright, when none of your close ones are ill, and when you can distance yourself from the standard idea of what it is to be a ‘human’ and become just a kind of given fact, a kind of abstract. But when there are lots of problems that have to be sorted out, as a mother, as a woman, as an actress, it’s important to understand that you were born onto this earth, and you have to get through each day and sort stuff out. Thankfully those moments come and go leading to some kind of new stage of life. But you could probably go crazy trying to figure out exactly what I mean.
DE I: Does the Territory Festival give you new ideas or inspiration? Is it interesting for you – I mean what do you personally get from it? For example Castelluccio was here, or do you not have the time to see everything?
C.K.: It’s very interesting. I don’t have the time to see everything. I have time to go to the studio, but not to Castelluccio. Territory is very interesting because it connects classics, the great masters – Rene Varnier is a master, Alex Cox’s work is already classic regardless of how avant-garde or punk it is or isn’t, it’s still classic. And then there are the students from the regions who are not even in a state of carte blanche or clean slate, they don’t even have the slate yet. The mingling of one layer with another and understanding that nobody really knows the truth – not the masters, not the students. And the students are very natural and at one with themselves because they are young and fresh and neither one nor the other. And you understand that as an actress you will always be in this state of ‘Pi’.
I’ve probably been hot by some wave of doubt. Sometimes I sense complete harmony regarding my profession, what and why I do what I do. But these are just tiny flashes, 2 per year, when my head, soul and the outside world come into line in harmony and in a flash I realise that there is a reason why I’m here. And then that thoughts slips away from the now into the past. And that’s the reason for Territory, if they don’t just kill it off and I hope that that won’t happen despite all the dreadful things that were written about us last year, really outrageous things written with such anger that it really wasn’t clear what we had managed to do to them, our poor critics…This year at our press conference, I saw the looks on the faces of some of the critics and there really was no point in them being there. |From their faces you could tell they’d made up their minds. It’s a shame that they are in the majority, and that the more progressive individuals drown in their negativity. It doesn’t matter what you slate, the most important thing is to slate…We live in a country where anything new has to be supported, because so little new is created. You could almost say that for such a huge country nothing new is created. For that reason, have some patience, wait a while for some results. The child hasn’t even been born yet, it’s just been conceived, and yet they’ve already killed it off, given it a fatal diagnosis to ensure it will never be born. That how it seems…
That’s what really surprises me about the country where we live. If you’re involved with any kind of initiative or sincere, well intentioned activity you’ll come up against this sooner or later. Things are difficult enough as it is, so why do you need even more obstacles along the way. Genia Mironov is very upset. Kirill Serebrennikov is very upset because we invested our time – which is short as it is – in this, and we genuinely wanted to do it very well. We wanted to organise a poetry evening but the press wrote that it was some show for all these glamourous actors…it was so unfair. If you really want to offend us then write that we recited the poems badly, that our voices were off, that we go the rhythm messed up, but don’t insult, at the very least, the core idea, the intention. That, for me, was what was most upsetting.
DE I: But none of that has stopped you, has it?
C.K.: Well, there was a moment when in all honestly I can tell you that you just want to give up and I thought I wouldn’t do another thing. It would be easier that way for me and for everyone else, and I ‘d have lots of spare time, or at least some, or at least a little more than usual. It seems to me that we live in a country where…well, when I received a State Prize there were a huge percentage of people who were being given the Prize posthumously. And that was very paradoxical. And I realised that in fact nothing has changed and it’s much easier for us to award those people who are already gone. While a person’s alive, they’re not very sure what to do with him. What to do with this ‘force of nature’. But as soon as he’s died, you can give him an award or a medal – and everything is neatly, quietly resolved. For that reason, I’m really delighted we have a festival like Territory and I’m confident that from the point of view of our students there will be some phenomenal results…
DE I: Is that what motivates you to do it?
C.K.: There has been a shocking change in the audience coming to the theatre. Even in comparison with the audiences of say 5 year ago, there’s been a change. You have to admit this is obvious and something has to be done about it. The audience has become ignorant, abusive, demanding in a way that is unjustified. I don’t know what the reason is, if it’s connected to the fact that theatre and cinema are supplying them with the kind of product which proves to them that actors are not gods, just ordinary people, sometimes worse than ordinary people, who also can work below par for money and who aren’t enigmatic or mysterious and therefore you can treat them any way you want. I agree that because all of our colleagues have acted in TV serials that we’ve probably diluted the myth a bit. But on the other hand, theatre is a type of ‘special zone’ where apart from your own personal attitude to the material you’re watching or the actors performing there are other people attending. It’s not like going to the cinema – you can’t bring popcorn in or answer your cell-phone and tell people to call you back because you’re in the theatre or even talk while the play is on. That is not debatable. It’s not allowed. Full stop. Those are the local rules of the territory you enter when you go to the theatre.
DE I: Is that ‘territory’ closest of all to theology?
C.K.: Yes. Sometimes during particular plays I hear myself thinking that in any case there are likely to be at least 2 people in the audience who are getting the message we are trying to put across. Not just getting the message, but who want to get the message. And the rest who are answering their phones, shuffling in their seats, commenting on who has got older looking and so on, I’m not performing for them, I’m performing for those two. As a member of the audience in other theatres I see exactly the same tendency. It’s like when in school a teacher can’t get the attention of one of the pupils no matter how hard he tries – it means that the pupil doesn’t really want to learn anything, or he just doesn’t want to learn at all. When all is said and done, you should be coming to the theatre to learn. There is ‘entertainment’ theatre and for sure it will entertain, great, but if you are going to see a particular play and you understand that nobody is going to jump up and down for you, then sit down and listen. And listen to the end, sit through to the end, read the book through to the end and then and only then form your opinion. Our opinions now are formed after 5 minutes of a play and I can hear how the entire auditorium has already cast its vote about the whole event. The audience is very impatient, very ‘fast’, very much a reflection of today. You can write a letter or you can send an SMS – the SMS interpretation of a play like ‘Anthony and Cleopatra’!
© DE I / DESILLUSIONIST ¹-1. "EVERYDAY WONDERS"