You said in another interview this could turn out to be the campiest movie made by a straight man who isn't Baz Luhrmann. Did you keep his films in mind as a kind of step too far from what you wanted to do?
I kind of regret saying that about Baz, because one tries not to compare oneself to other filmmakers. I didn't really keep him in my rearview mirror. The influences were closer to home, really. Films of Powell and Pressburger and my parents' puppet theater were both big influences on this movie, also the Czech animator Jan Svankmejer. The camp thing is interesting. I remember a lovely quote from Milan Kundera, who said the definition of camp is ripe to the edge of rotten. I felt that Russian society of that period was indeed ripe to the edge of rotten. It was just that tipping point at the last dance before the end of that civilization, or civilization as they knew it. So I think the film, the background of the story is inherently camp, if camp can be defined that way.

When you've got this heightened reality of the world within the old theater, and then also Levin's reality shot out in the actual world, how do you keep track of where reality actually is?
If I knew where the edges of reality, were, I would not need to make films, and I would live happily as a woodcarver with my wife and son. [Laughs] I'm constantly trying to define the edges of reality for myself, and they are constantly eluding me. In terms of the reality of this film, definitely, you're trying to give yourself parameters prior to the beginning of the shoot. The idea is that Anna's story, which is pure fiction, is set in this fictitious, artificial environment of the theater. And Levin's story, which is a more autobiographical portrait of Tolstoy, is expressed in what we think of as being realism, or cinematic reality. Of course there is no reality in cinema.

Long takes are often seen as getting films closer to reality, like in Italian neo-realist films, but you seem to use them to make a film even more heightened, with so much choreography as in this film.
Entirely. A long take requires even more choreography than, for instance, a close-up or something. A close-up you line the shot up and you basically follow the actor, you allow the actor to do what they're doing. Whereas the long Steadicam takes are very much choreographed pieces of theater.

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