Croatian-Danish Actor Zlatko Buric talks recent film ‘Teen Spirit’ + Croatia during the 60s

ATM: Is there a similarity with how teenagers navigated in this film compared to how you navigated while a teenager?

Z: It was during the 60s. I lived in a small town in Yugoslavia called Osijek. I was about 13 years old. It was the rock music. I had a brother who was 11, he was into Jazz. My brother took me to the best places of where jazz was played. Suddenly it became rock music like The Rolling Stones. I was lucky. I started going into the town that looked like the suburbs with big houses. It was only when going to other towns. Then I started to play in the theatre. For me, it was kind of like Pop music. Things were changing by a way of living.

ATM: Rock N’ Roll, Pop music, and hard rock was very prevalent during this time in the United States. This was the time where music reflected what was going on in society. It was a way to bring us close together. It also gave a nice beat. The lyrics showed what was happening in society.

Z: Life was different. For me, it was stuff like Jimi Hendrix and The Doors. This is when you are talking about the lyrics. I learned the songs through Jimi Hendrix. There was a song called All Along the Watch Tower. This was about the oppression. I was also interested in these kinds of lyrics because of its connection with music. It was also The Jefferson Airplane with their album called Surrealistic Pillow and their song The Letter. It was a very important moment in the 60s.

It was heavy during this time in 1967. The Pop music played things about love and other stuff. Pop music started to mix poetry and surrealism in the popular culture. I started playing in films very late. I was about over 40 years old. I came from theater. The music influences you physically and emotionally. It made you feel freer. It made you have a freer soul so I could act in society.  

ATM: How are the topics of love and other topics expressed in music in this film?

Z: The Pop music in this film is far from me because I am older. This kind of story where you drive from the structure of Pop music is shown when trying to fight for existential questions. They faced the same place of fighting for your personality. This is what I saw the character play. It was in a different time, but we played it on the set in this kind of way.

ATM: In Croatia and America during this time, there was a lot of messages behind the lyrics that made an impact on the music to come after and other genres to form.

Z: Most of the songs had a secret energy. Of course, Pop music today is different. The Pop music during 1967 had a feeling. For Violet, it was not really about the song, but it was really about the lyrics she wanted to create.  

ATM: A lot of the lyrics in my country during this time concentrated on lyrics related to war and oppression. This was also the case for Croatian Pop and Rock music. It gave a feeling of energy. It was how people could reflect on the things happening around them. This was just all through a beat.

Z: For me, the film from a big view is how it tells life from a simple life story and structure. Things started to get more complicated on the many ways we expressed ourselves. Time flies strong. There is a change in responsibility. We worry about the moments and it changes our expression.

ATM: During this time, a lot of the music expressed nationalism. This was what mostly the political standard that Croatia was going through in the 60s but changed after the 60s.

Z: You think so?

ATM: Yes.

Z: Yes. I do agree. After the 60s, I grew up on the New Wave and Punk. I improvised music.

ATM: But you should ask yourself why you changed your taste in music?

Z: The form of structure. The Rock was great but then it started to be shitty. It started to not express the statements or feelings. It was not interesting enough. Of course, people relate to it in personal ways.  

ATM: How did the lyrics shift into expressing a political structure?

Z: To make a political statement does not make it mean it is direct. It is a great thing that art creates different kinds of feelings, pictures, or surrealism. Everyone is different from the work and the existences of political oppression. It is a freer space for the music. It was more political. It was to make a change in the world.

ATM: I call it propaganda.  It became a cause and effect with using this. Music played a role in how we grew to understand the world. It was figuratively seen as a lyrical protest. The lyrics were the protest. This is whether it was in Croatia or America.

Z: I agree. You also make a surrealistic experiment. You make a reality. You destroy the normal perception of reality in a political way. This perception of the world is strange. It depends on the moment. During the time of the war in Yugoslavia . . .

ATM: Which was during the 90s.

Z: Yes, it was the early 90s. They started to make very political words. This was good. It was this kind of time. You show nationalism and the shit that was not good. It was happy. It came from the people in New Wave music. It was the popular events. “Now we have to talk about the lyrics straight.”

ATM: In my country, my music in the genre talked about socio-economic issues. Also, about legislation and women. The lyrics were pushed on the feminism side.

Z: Yes. There was a song about the young girl who lived in a society of oppression. This was the biggest song on this popular music. They opened on the bigger and realest things. It was the greatest song and it still has a powerful message. You can do great things with a simple great song. This is a great thing.

ATM: The surrealism in the lyrics gave you a sense of reality that was not there. This new reality could be a play on the reality that should be evoked in the society. It might not be a false reality.

Z:  I know. Let me tell you a story. When the war started in the early 90s. A lot of intellectual people like the professors jumped on this shitty ship of nationalism. The real Pop, Rock, and New Wave kept the real fight. At one moment there was a fire in the city because of nationalism. The fight against it came from pop culture. It was a great moment. It was in Yugoslavia. It was not commissioned.

ATM: They were trying to break away. The war lasted more than five years.

Z: Yes.

ATM: What did you feel like to witness this, in your country, your soil?

Z: One time, I watched the pictures on television of everything during the time. Everything was white. It was a lot of bright lights. Everyone was burning everything. It brings on memories. And also losing trust in people. It was a big fight. The war was terrible. The war destroyed the culture. When you do things, it starts to be considered empathetic to other people. I also saw one time where the people were shooting them. You could borrow the tape from a little town. The people borrowing the tape could see the last few moments of the people who got shot.  

ATM: Wait, you saw people get shot?

Z: I saw the tape. You could borrow it in a little shop.