Goran Stolevski Interview: The director talks about gay romance

“Of an Age” director Goran Stolevski tells IndieWire about his painful love story, a must-see for “Weekend” and “Before Sunrise” fans.

For fans of “Weekend,” “Before Sunrise” and other regrettably tinged romances about what could have been and what wasn’t, “Of an Age” might just be the devastating cinematic kick you need — and for good reason. to hurt the one who will never be freed.

Its director, Goran Stolevski, made a modest splash at Sundance and in theaters last year with his directorial debut, the witchy, body-hopping folk horror tale “You Might Be Alone” for Focus Features. He’s working again with the prestige distributor of Of an Age, which sees the director switch genres but still draw the line: A sexy Aussie gay romance is, after all, about bodies and how they bend to time and desire. .

“All of my movies could really be called ‘You Won’t Be Alone,'” the Macedonian-born, Australian filmmaker told IndieWire during a recent Zoom interview. “It’s just that I’ve used this address before.” The runway director is charmingly self-righteous.

His confidently produced second film, “Of an Age,” unfolds between 1999 and 2010 as high school student and aspiring dancer Kol (Elias Anton) spirals into a frenzy of emotions over his friend and dance partner’s older brother, Adam (Thom Green). . They first bond over Franz Kafka, Tori Amos and Wong Kar Wai’s “Happy Together” during a nice, hot car ride, creating an instant connection that was interrupted by circumstances (but not without some backseat sex). A decade later, Kol reunites with Adam at his friend’s wedding – to which the kid only chased him – and the pair confront the love that eluded them and the agony of lost time.

Stolevski, who immigrated to Australia with his parents from Macedonia as a teenager, grew up watching English-language films and TV shows and idolized actresses such as Isabelle Huppert. So you wouldn’t be completely off base if you wanted to label some autobiographical book in “Of an Age’s” media literacy, quirky period details. There is some truth in this, although the circumstances depicted in the film did not turn out like that in real life.

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“From an Age”

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“The feeling of writing started from a really vivid memory of a really random event. Like a party, the only party I went to in high school, and I felt like this kid who won’t admit to himself that he’s extremely lonely and has a really hard time connecting with people. This was back in the day before technology made things a little easier and a lot more complicated. There’s actually a lot more of me in Adam than in Kol, but the demographics are a bit of a distraction in that case,” Stolevski said, noting that Kol, a Serbian-born immigrant living in Melbourne, is a fellow Balkan man. to Australia.

“I wanted to explore the mindset of what love is and what it will be and in the context of who I became later, how I processed it then and who I am now,” said Stolevski, who lives in Australia. with her husband, but spoke to IndieWire in Los Angeles, where she is in discussions about her next project.

In some ways, Adam is the idealization of a guy that young, closeted gays want to relate to, especially those who struggle socially and don’t bury themselves in people, but people who mostly disappoint.

“When you meet a child that you were five years ago and you recognize those feelings and you see them reflected in you, if you have a nurturing side, it leads to the relationship, you want to protect someone,” he said. “Looking at my own experiences in love and romance, that was kind of (when) I recognized patterns in my personality. It would catch me off guard if I started falling in love with someone. The dynamic was when he was vulnerable in ways he wasn’t aware of, I just wanted to hug him, not just sexually. But it was probably very sexual.”

The film’s centerpiece is a road trip seen with Adam at the wheel and Kol in the passenger seat. They talk about Borges, Dickens and movies while stealing sidelong glances that set up the painful flow of the film: furtive glances and verbal affection. Stolevski is taking a risk by keeping us in that car, in close Academy proportions, for as long as he does.

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“From an Age”

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“I was just lying in the back seat. I had to position myself strategically,” he said of the claustrophobic and seductive scene, which was just “me and the two guys” in the car. (Cinematographer Matthew Chuang also creates many indelible images that take place outside the car.) “When I was writing the film, or certainly before shooting it, I thought that (the scene) would be the biggest challenge, not just keeping people. the interest through the conversation in the car, but also the change that occurs in the initial shaping of the story. The first 16 minutes are about the chaos of adolescence… then there is a change in tone. I try to get into the mindset of how his heart beats.”

Stolevski released “hundreds” of audition tapes before finalizing the relatively unknown Elias Anton for the role of Kol. In fact, he had a completely different kind of person in mind, so Stolevski recast the role and rewrote the dialogue to suit Anton’s particular presence.

“Elias looked and sounded like what I described or imagined, (which was) a short skinny kid in the role when I wrote it. I also know his work from an Australian TV show, which I liked, but he wasn’t physically what I thought of the type,” Stolevski said. “When I saw the tape … it was the only pair of eyes that I felt had a certain life experience … That’s who I want to look at because his feelings are raw.”

He added: “Often I’m not looking for the person I wrote. I’m looking for the person who assesses the bust, and then I’m going to reshape the story around that. How does this movie look and feel? With Elias, that was the only time with ‘Of an Age’ that I thought, ‘This version is more interesting to me than what I had decided before.'”

Stolevski conceived the film in 2020, a less than ideal time for a budding filmmaker. But “Of Age” and her next film, the drama “Housekeeping for Beginners” (about a gay woman forced to raise her sick partner’s child) were financed before “You Won’t Be Alone.” “It could be a much bigger problem from now on,” Stolevski said of the funding for his peculiar and personal queer stories.

Either way, a movie like “Of an Age” should offer anyone who likes to replay a missed romantic opportunity over and over in their head, going over and over what did or didn’t go wrong, to relive the regret. .

“Of an Age” opens in select Focus Features theaters on Friday, February 17.

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