As a sign of homage to the untimely death of the great actor and director of Albanian cinema, Rikard Ljarja, who passed away this evening due to a serious illness, Memorie.al is publishing an interview that he has given for several years. previously, for the journalist and his friend, Dashnor Kaloçi.
Years ago his portrait was constantly present, both in the Cinema and in the only Television of that time. In fact, he was so present that in his hometown, in the city of Shkodra, in those years, a joke about him began to circulate. So, when someone asked a Shkodra resident how many brothers there were in the house, he replied: “Together with Rikard Ljarja, we will be five!” Although like many other jokes that came out in Shkodra at that time, she was not without anything inside, having a very clear subtext, still that anecdote still conveyed a more real reality. And that reality had to do with the fact that the famous actor originally from Shkodra, with his special play and portrait, had conquered the whole screen of both cinema and television. But all these, together with that joke, already belong to a bygone era, many of which can only be remembered by a nostalgic of the famous humor of Shkodra and no one else. He has even started to be forgotten, although at this age and with the same number of years of career, his colleagues in other parts of the world are starting to become famous and famous. He has already “chewed” all this, and since 2002, when he was no longer paid in VAT, where he worked as Artistic Director, he has changed almost the entire course of his life. He no longer works as he once did, from 10 to 12 hours a day for film roles, but from 3-4 hours in the garden of his home in the city of Shkodra, where he goes constantly two or three times a month, to stay from three to four days.
Mr. Ljarja, how do you remember your introduction to cinematography?
I have been involved in art since I was 6 years old, when my two parents, with the idea of giving me a general culture, introduced me to music circles, for piano. But even though I studied music for many years, even being a bad musician, reaching the Prenk Jakova Symphony Orchestra as a bassoonist, when I graduated from high school in 1960 I had the right to study Mathematics-Physics. Of course I did not accept this, as my dream was to become an actor.
What did you have to do with the acting profession when you said you were into music?
In an interview, you can’t say all your life… At the time I was a high school student and involved in music, the Shkodra City Theater gave performances in the villages in the summer months. To make up for it, they hired me as a musician to accompany them on various skits. So, I really liked that thing and I could hardly wait to get into acting school, where, after competing, I won.
After graduation, what is your first role in cinematography?
My first role is the teacher (Dritan Shkaba), in the feature film “Commissar of Light”, a film that was very successful, as it was widely echoed by the press and paved the way for me further.
Who assigned them that role?
I won that role with a rehearsal, among 15 competitors, among whom I remember Guljelm Radoja, Viktor Zhust, and Mark Topollaj. In addition to that role, I accidentally helped with the role of the priest, as the great Ndrek Luca was missing. But when Minister Fadil Paçrami saw them, he liked the teacher more, saying: “This is what I did as a commissioner.”
Throughout your career, how many roles do you have in Cinematography and Theater and who do you consider the most accomplished?
Honestly I don’t remember. There could be over 30 roles in Cinematography and as many in Theater. I can’t single out any roles, as I’ve played them all with gusto. It is the viewer who gives appreciation to the actors.
While in the cinema you are already famous, in Theater you are almost unknown?
From 1965 to 1973, when I came to Tirana and started working as an actor-director at Kinostudio, I played about 30 roles in the “Migjeni” Theater in Shkodra, where most of the main roles were. But at the time television was in its infancy and so your generation doesn’t remember me as a theater actor.
Throughout your artistic career, have you had occasions when you really felt in trouble?
No, I don’t remember going through difficult times in my artistic career.
When did you leave Kinostudio and how did you experience it?
De jure left Kinostudio in ’96 when I broke off financial relations from there, but de facto it had been since 1990 when Kinostudio could no longer afford to make films. Based on this fact, my departure from the world of film came somewhat mildly, as from there I started my duty as Artistic Director of Albanian TV.
What would you call a mistake for the period before the ’90s, when you were at Kinostudio?
I can call it a sudden increase in cinematographic production from 3-4 films, to 14. The small opportunity to afford it also brought weak films. But in the 380 films that were made then, there are genuine artistic values.
What about Albanian Television when and why did you leave?
In early 2002, when I went to get a salary, I was told that I did not have a salary to get. According to a clerk, I had left of my own free will. After that, I left without complaining to anyone, as I have always respected the state. After leaving VAT, after some time, I retired.
Didn’t you suffer the departure that way?
No, I was just impressed by the ethics with which they behaved.
Surely you get a special pension, as an artist ?!
No, I’m not a People’s Artist, I’m just a Meritorious. After some laws…
Since when did you retire and what do you currently do?
Very little gossip. I continue the ancient history of writing because in addition to acting and directing in 12 films, I have occasionally written screenplays that have been made into films. All my life I have written.
Why didn’t you publish?
For a hundred and one reasons, I haven’t published.
Why did you publish the book “In a Lost Here Around”?
Yes for a hundred and one reasons.
Can you tell us a…?
In the manuscript, that book had been read by some of my friends, who asked me to publish it.
Why not publish again?
More of myself.
What do you do besides writing?
How do I know… I go to Shkodra, to my house, and I plant onions, garlic, tulips, roses, etc. I work in my garden for four or five hours, as I miss walking barefoot on the ground.
If you were called back to the roles, would you accept?
It depends on the role, the director, and the theater because today I no longer have time to run after a handful of money and be ashamed.
How do you rate the Albanian films of the post-1990s?
I haven’t seen them because they haven’t been shown to the public
Ljarja: People ask me today, are you still on the pillar?
The famous actor of Albanian cinematography, Rikard Ljarja, who once occupied the screens of cinema and television, since the late ’90s, when Kinostudio “Shqipëria e Re” stopped producing films, has not taken any role as an actor in cinema. However, he says: “Bicycles and professions are not easily forgotten.” He has staged performances at the National Theater, and at the National Theater in Pristina, and has also performed as an actor on stage. He has also collaborated with IFEF (American Association) for a screenplay. Likewise, a few years ago he made a brilliant advertisement for AMC, so much so that even today he says that many of the people who know him or do not know him to stop him on the street and say, “You are still on the pillar.” ?! They even ask him why he has been missing from the stage and screen for so many years and ask him to go out there again, as he once did… because they miss him./Memorie.al