Vir Srinivas tackles human capability in his debut film, ‘Orders from Above’

Richard Cotter as Captain Avner Less and Peter J. Donnelly as Adolf Eichmann in Orders From Above. Photo provided by Vir Srinivas.
Photo provided by Vir Srinivas.

Vir Srinivas has made quite a name for himself as a filmmaker with his debut historical drama, Orders from Above.

Orders from Above is based on the interrogation of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann by Israeli police. Fifteen years after the end of World War II, Israeli police officer Avner Less interrogates Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, one of the architects of the Final Solution. 

Orders from Above has racked up international awards at an overwhelming rate, most recently winning three categories, including Best History Film, at the Cannes World Film Festival.

Check out our interview with Vir!

First of all, congratulations on the film. And all the accolades that came along with it. Prior to making this film, did you have any filmmaking experience?

Vir: No. I always wanted to be a filmmaker, and I’ve made some short videos for school but never a film.

Did you pursue any sort of schooling to help gain experience?

Vir: I’ve graduated from film school, I graduated last year and right now I’m spending my time writing screenplays.

What kind of screenplays are you writing? Is it all one genre or are you kind of doing a whole bunch of stuff?

Vir: Yeah, I’m writing mostly historical dramas. My last screenplay that I wrote was set in colonial Australia. It’s about a trial in which 30 Aboriginals were massacred.

Peter J. Donnelly as Adolf Eichmann in Orders From Above. Photo provided by Vir Srinivas.
What inspired you to embark on a filmmaking career journey? 

Vir: I’ve always loved movies from a young age. I think filmmaking is like any career, if you have a passion for it and you think you can be good. If you think you can make good movies, then you should pursue it. There was no spark of lightning that drew me to it.

Was there any film in particular or any genre that really made you think, ‘oh, this is something that I can do?’

Vir: No, not particularly. No, I love all genres, really.

So, you wrote Orders from Above during the 2020 lockdowns, did you also shoot it during that time as well?

Vir: It wasn’t. I’m based in Australia. It wasn’t during the lockdown that I shot it, but it was just straight after we’d opened up. But there was still a lot of restrictions, so we had to wear masks and maintain social distancing and all that

Why write about the interrogation of Adolf Eichmann?

Vir: Multiple reasons. One is that it’s cheap to make. I had no equipment or any budget and I only could use a few actors in one room. So an interrogation as a story for a movie is a good one on a tight budget. And apart from that, history is an interest of mine. I was fascinated by the story of Adolf Eichmann. Somebody who, if he had grown up in the US, maybe he would have worked for Ford or IBM and nobody would have seen the darker side of him. But he happened to work for Nazi Germany. So is his business was genocide.

Because this is very dialogue heavy and mainly set in one location, what was it like having to balance the content while also keeping it engaging?

Vir: A lot of the dialogue I’ve taken from the actual transcripts of Eichmann’s interrogation, which were very interesting. And the film is not just set in one room, it also has scenes with the interrogator’s boss and it has a few scenes, I won’t I won’t spoil it, but there are a few scenes which are quite confronting for the audience, that we use more visual storytelling.

Richard Cotter as Captain Avner Less in Orders From Above. Photo provided by Vir Srinivas.
Yeah, I wasn’t expecting those at all. How were you able to gain access to the transcripts and this footage?

Vir: I think it’s all in the public domain. So, I found it on the internet. I hadn’t seen it before, I’ve seen some of it in school but I don’t think they show you that kind of footage. It’s probably too dark for children to see.

Why include that footage within the story?

Vir: Yeah, the reason is because Eichmann, as a person, is a very cowardly and weak person. He never had even the guts to personally kill anyone or face his victims. And so the interrogator in the movie is trying to make Eichmann see what he has done.

Were you familiar with the interrogation prior to writing the story? Or was this something that you kind of like learned about and thought this would be interesting?

Vir: No, not the interrogation, really. I was aware of his capture in Argentina. That was quite famous, and also his trial. But no, people don’t really know about the interrogation.

Why was it important for you to kind of bring this part to the public eye?

Vir: There was no specific reason. I think that the audience can take from this film, what they want to take, whether they think it has real world parallels or not, it’s really up to them.

For you personally, what makes the story relevant?

Vir: It is always relevant that what humans are capable of, in extreme circumstances, is always relevant, and it should not be forgotten.

I thought filming the entire movie in black and white was a really interesting choice. Why did you do that?

Vir: Well, again, budget is one. The colors in the room just didn’t make sense. But apart from that, it’s almost filmed like an interrogation tape. If they did tape interviews back in those days, it would have been black and white. Yeah, it’s part of the videotaping style.

So, now that this film is out, and it’s going to be worldwide, what’s next for you?

Vir: Um, yeah, it’s a tough industry, especially in Australia. It’s very unpredictable. But I’m trying to write scripts, applying for jobs and who knows what’ll happen.

Peter J. Donnelly as Adolf Eichmann in Orders From Above. Photo provided by Vir Srinivas.
Orders from Above is now available on online!