Milena Czernovsky and Lilith Kraxner

Source: Lisa Edi

Left to right: Milena Czernovsky and Lilith Kraxner

bluish, the second film by Austrian directors Lilith Kraxner and Milena Czernovsky, world premieres today (June 26) in competition at FIDMarseille.

bluish won the Screen International Award at the C EU Soon work-in-progress programme at Rome’s MIA Market in October 2023.

The film centres on two somewhat disorientated characters in their twenties who each aimlessly drift through a city’s gloomy winter days. It stars Leonie Bramberger and Natasha Goncharova.

It is produced by Lixi Frank and David Bohun for Vienna-based Panama Film who recently co-produced Venice 2023 competition title Universal Theory by Timm Kröger. World sales are handled by Square Eyes.

Czernovsky and Kraxner’s previous feature Beatrix premiered at FIDMarseille in 2021. Kraxner attended the Friedl Kubelka School for Independent Film and is currently studying video and video installation at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. Czernovsky studied scenography at University of Applied Arts Vienna.

How have you both come to work together, first on Beatrix and now on bluish?

Czernovsky We have both been friends for a very long time. We always helped each other with our projects. We share a lot of interests, so it felt very natural to do this together.

Kraxner Our films grow between us, through conversation. I can’t imagine how a film can come about without having this kind of conversation.

What were some of the themes you were trying to explore in bluish?

Kraxner I think it was an atmosphere we were trying to grasp. It was during the post-Covid lockdown period, and social life had rearranged itself. We just started talking about how this time feels weird to us - new and exciting, but also awkward.

Czernovsky We didn’t focus on a narrative but more on an atmosphere or a state of being. We tried to collect moments we observed or experienced ourselves to explain this atmosphere. At first, we developed only one character, and then a second so we could talk about coincidences, overlaps and different realities that can happen in a city. Both characters are insecure and uncertain in a way. They’re also unsure about how they want to be seen by the outside world. They are longing to be in a fluid state.

Kraxner The protagonists are longing for touch in a way, or longing for connection. But they’re also not sure of what exactly they’re searching for, or how close they want to get. It’s like state of in-between all the time - it’s not blue, it’s bluish.

Would you describe this as a Gen Z film?

Kraxner It’s about two characters in the middle of their 20s. But it is not only a generational thing, but a state of being that has been caused by the events of recent years. All of us are using Zoom or video calls. Screens are so present everywhere. Society has just changed. We have tried to grasp a part of that change, to try to understand what is happening.

What does the title bluish refer to?

Czernovsky The title came during editing process. We realised blue was very present visually in the film. But we didn’t plan for it. For us, bluish describes a state of being, an atmosphere. It’s also about feeling blue, but only a little bit - it’s an in-between feeling. 

How was the production process?

Czernovsky Lilith and I started to develop the project in 2022. We also had our creative consultant Lara Bellon, and were in a constant exchange with her, and also with Antonia de la Luz Kašik, our cinematographer. We had 18 shooting days in March 2023 and one in June. Then we had a very long and exhaustive editing process.

Kraxner We started the edit in April and finished at the end of November. A lot happened during the edit. The finished film was quite different to the script, which was way more linear. In the edit, it was important to deconstruct this linearity of time because it made much more sense to the atmosphere we wanted to convey. We wanted to break it up and shuffle it, and that led to new and exciting connections. While making the film, we also collaborated with other artists to expand our perspective, to get other views and to have extra layers.

What are you working on next?

Czernovsky We’ve talked about working on a series with the same team as we always do. The four of us, with Lara Bellon and Antonia de la Luz Kašik, are like a collective.

What have you learned from making your second film?

Czernovsky A lot. The most important is to give ourselves more time for everything, and for every process. 

Kraxner And to trust in the process. It is usual when making a second film, like a second album, to think much more of the audience. For our first film, we didn’t really think about an audience at all because we didn’t even understand what it all meant, playing a film at festivals. So, we were way freer and there was less pressure. For bluish, it was hard work to keep the expectations and the outside away, to stay with ourselves.