Jos Stelling calls film a Catholic expression of art. Filming is lying and manipulating the consciousness of the viewer. Religion to him is a fairy tale of universal value, just like film. His films often revolve around lonely men, as sensitive antiheroes, whereas the women usually symbolize the Italian Catholic figure of the mother or lover, who acts as a catalyst for the oftentimes absurdist, comic events and preposterous ideas. There is usually no real story to speak of.
A viewer shouldn’t think but feel, in his opinion. That is one of the reasons why his films have little dialogue, because dialogue goes straight to the brains, thereby hindering the viewing experience. Stelling’s main goal is a suggestive visual area of tension. What the actors are doing is less important than the interaction between the actors, or in Stelling’s words ‘is associatively evoked’.
Russia and Italy are the two countries where he feels most at home, as a person, but especially as a filmmaker. According to Stelling, Russians and Italians are very much alike in their way of living and their views, except that the Russian ideology is based on melancholy, while the Italian art of living extends beyond death.
Particularly the East European audiences appreciate Stelling’s films more than the Dutch ones. Moscow, Sochi, Kiev and Riga are all cities where Jos Stelling is considered to be one of the most important film authors still alive. Both Russian critics and Stelling himself think that the Calvinistic nature of the Dutch make them less receptive to his visual emotionalism, which better suits the Russians. The humor of the surrealist from Utrecht also seems to have a better click with an East European audience than a Dutch on. For Jos Stelling, film is not a rational art, but it belongs to the language of the soul.
Filming to him is definitely a team effort, whereby the director has his part, and the film is ultimately finished by the audience. A film can only be any good with a good audience that is open to the emotions created by the director.