• Festivals

“You Won’t Be Alone” – A Soul that Lives Across Multiple Centuries

You Won’t Be Alone is a folklore horror film directed by Macedonian-Australian, Goran Stolevski, who makes his feature film debut at the Sundance Film Festival. Set in the 19th century, Nevena (Sara Klimoska) is a young girl from a mountain village in Macedonia who is taken from her mother and transformed into a witch by an ancient shape-shifting creature, the Wolf Eateress/Old Maid Maria (Anamaria Marinca). When she grows up, Nevena accidentally kills a peasant girl in the village and takes over her shape allowing her to explore the girl’s life. This ignites an unquenchable curiosity in Nevena who continues to kill and inhabit the body of her victims. 

“I always had this idea in the back of my head for a soul that lives across multiple centuries and what a fascinating perspective that would be,” explains Stoleveski. “And that then spurred the idea for the film.”

Due to the shape-shifting element of the story, Klimoska had to share the role with many other actors, though she was the first to embody the character. “It was a unique experience to share that character through many actors, even though it remains the same person,” she says.   

Stolevski adds, “Whenever new actors would arrive, they would speak with Sara to just touch base about her and take on the personality. Obviously, I would speak with them in detail just talking about the inner world of the character and what was happening. Every actor would bring in something of their own, which the character then absorbed.”

Stolevski assembled an impressive array of stellar actors including Noomi Rapace, Alice Englert, Carloto Cotta and Fleix Maritaud.

“I definitely wanted it to be a transportive experience. I wanted it to go to a whole other time and place that feels very different from anywhere we are right now. I concentrated on historical research and realized that even in Eastern Europe, the way it was everywhere else, women who were routinely accused of witchcraft were often accused of having taken the shape of another human being or an animal. And so, I thought, ‘Well, if you can do that, what an incredible perspective on life that would be.

“I was drawn to something that would take me to a perspective that’s outside humanity, something that was outside of time and was also just really fascinating. And through pursuing the idea that if you could shape shift intimately and take over other people’s bodies, you’d be ageless, and essentially, you’d be living outside of time.”

Marinca says of how she approached the role of Old Maid Maria, “I didn’t see it as a negative character because I have to love everything I do. But she is terrifying, and I love her for that,” she chuckles. “And I love the mythic aspect of the story. For me it’s about the stranger, the outsider, this monster that might be perceived as such by the others. And for me, she has all the reasons to become who she’s become.”

You Won’t Be Alone has been compared to the works of Terrence Malick. Stolevski offers, “Actually, the starting point for me was Virginia Woolf. I was living in England at the time I wrote it when I was about halfway through my two-year stint of unemployment. I was just very isolated, and I was a migrant for the second time in my life,” he explains. “Virginia Woolf was helping me connect to the place where I was at, and then in thinking about that through a cinematic perspective, of course, the first reference in my head was Terrence Malick, who I adore,” he says. “But I’m a massive film nerd. There’s probably 800 films that influenced me.”