You are often regarded as a director given to harsh themes. Do you agree?
I was never interested in cruelty for its own sake. But sometimes you have to resort to harsh narrative methods when the overall concept of the film demands it.
Are you referring to The Ascent?
Yes. This film is a study of man in an extreme, inhuman situation. He is in a position where he can only draw strength from within himself to stand up to the cruel circumstances. He is guided by such lofty motives as love for humanity and for his country. He remains human in inhuman circumstances. How can you show all this “gently”? I don’t think anyone can accuse me of using violence to tickle the audience’s sensibilities. That is taboo. I have never stooped to that.
I agree. In The Ascent no naturalistic details are in the frame in the scenes of torture, execution and physical suffering. Even so, the picture is very severe.
That might seem to be so by the comparison with “nice”, “undisturbing” films. I have nothing against pictures that make you laugh your head off. Laughter is good for your lungs. But there must also be pictures which disturb you, make you feel furious, compassionate and tearful. That’s good for your soul.
— Larisa Shepitko on her film The Ascent.