Romanian cinema

This Feel-Good Romanian Film From Corneliu Porumboiu is a Real Treat and Rare TREASURE! CANNES 2015 INTERVIEW

THE TREASURE, the latest film from Romanian filmmaker Corneliu Porumboiu, zeroes in on a literal and figurative hunt for a buried treasure with comedic results. It premiered at Cannes Film Festival this year where Porumboiu was awarded The Un Certain Talent Prize.

The Treasure is screening at AFI FEST tonight. 

The Treasure poster

This interview was part of a round-table conversation at Cannes Film Festival in May 2015. 

Knight: So, a treasure hunt…That sounds like the ultimate Romanian fantasy!

Porumboiu: (laughing) Yes, and there are a lot of stories like that in Romania, the local legends about someone who buried a treasure. It’s linked to the idea of miracle and as an orthodox country we believe in that!

Knight: In making this movie, you initially started from a documentary idea.

Porumboiu: Yes, Adrian who is playing the supporting role in this film, he told me a story about someone his grandfather knew who buried a treasure and we went there with a small crew to find it! But we didn’t find anything! So I thought I should make a feature film and then I’ll find the treasure!


Director Corneliu Porumboiu

Knight: What was the filmmaking process like?

Porumboiu: It was very strange. When I shot the documentary, Corneliu, who is the metal-detector guy in the film, he did not do a very good job with the computer and we were all looking at him anxious but also bursting with laughter. I really had the feeling that we were all lost in that garden and that was the first push to make the movie. So when I wrote the script, I was obviously thinking of the mise-en-scène and how the second plan looks and all that […] but my utmost concern in this movie was the tone. Will I find the right tone for the characters? From the beginning I wanted to have this distance from the story. Because it was very easy to slip into caricature with this film, it’s not like my other films. I’m quite happy with what I’ve achieved. After shooting, I took out a lot of scenes, especially from the beginning. Because the beginning is so puzzling that some of the following scenes did not fit very well into the structure. In the garden where I shot many long scenes, I wanted them to have an internal reason for being like that. After that, in the editing room, you can cut them shorter. But when I’m shooting, I focus on the internal reason of the shot.

Was there also improvisation in the garden scene?

Yes, even if it was all clear from the documentary. We usually rehearse a bit based on the script, but then we change the scenes from take to take. For the last scene we had about 20 takes. and I changed the scenes a little bit from take to take.

All your films talk about the possibility or impossibility of representing reality…

All my stories are about real things that happen around me. And every time I start with the desire of making a “real movie”. But at the same time it’s a convention. So it’s a paradox that I’m living every time. I want to make something “real” but at the same time I know that by structuring it, I’m making something else.

Why is it important to work with elements of reality in your films? All the filmmakers I admire the most did that, the French New Wave filmmakers, the Italian neorealists.

I’m inspired by reality, if I come across a story that at one point is important for me, I have to to tell it in a certain way. It’s a subconscious process, it’s like I want to say that now. But I wanted this film to be like an adventure.

The-Treasure stillIs the main character like a modern Robin Hood?

Yes, there is a suggestion to that effect. But when I was writing the script, it was very important to me that he is forced to give the treasure to the the kids. In the script this scene was more violent, the kids are just grabbing things.

I wanted the character to be in a very fragile equilibrium, he is not happy with his career. As to the kids, in Romania we say all the time that we are the sacrificed generation, therefore we want our kids to lead better lives. There are a lot of people who put a lot of pressure on their kids. When I did the casting, I saw a lot of kids and they all had such a busy schedule, they would come in with their mother or baby-sitter who would say, “At 4pm we have swimming, then we have this”. They looked so tired!

How did the casting for the other characters go?

We have very good young actors. Even the actress who plays the shop assistant in the jewellery store in tho film, she is very good. Between the ages of 25-35, you have at least a dozen very good actresses, and different typologies. Unfortunately there aren’t too many parts for them in Romanian films. But there are a lot of young actresses, it’s crazy what is happening now. But if you go over 50 years of age, it’s more difficult.

Is Corneliu, the metal-detector guy, the same person as in the documentary?

Yes. Although I did a casting with professional actors for this role. I gave the the dvd of the documentary and I told them I’m interested in a certain type of body language, I wanted this character to be like an extension of the machine. And Corneliu showed them how to do it and I realised he was so good that I said to him, Corneliu, you do it! And he read the script and said yes I can do it, it’s easy because I just reply to them! And I think he wants to do more acting now, we changed his life trajectory!

He is an interesting character and he functions like a metaphor for cinema in a way: making an image of a reality you don’t see, a 3D image created in numbers and colours that you have to interpret.

Yes, and it’s like a joke, we have the same name, and I was thinking that he was like an alter-ego for me. At the beginning when he introduces himself, “I’m Corneliu”, it’s very funny. But the scene where they start to fight in the garden was very difficult to shoot. […] There is a certain type of invisible despair in the film. I also wanted to play with this cliché that they will kill each other, in order to build up tension. I wanted to give the impression that they were digging their own graves.

2015 is a good year for Romanian cinema. Radu Jude won the Silver Bear for Best Director with Aferim! at Berlinale. There are two Romanian movies in Un Certain Regard in Cannes, yours and Radu Muntean’s One Floor Below. Is it getting easier making films in Romania?

It’s the same in a way. What is good is that three years ago they started to have the contest for state funding twice a year. Cristi Puiu just finished shooting, Mungiu too, Mitulescu has a movie that will premiere at a film festival by the end of the year, Adrian Sitaru just finished a very good movie from what I’ve heard and he’s shooting another one. Serban Florin is also making a film. It’s looking good. I actually have another project I’m working on now. 

Has Your Mum Upset You Again? Interview with Romanian Actor BOGDAN DUMITRACHE About THE CHILD’S POSE

The Child's Pose

Last chance to catch this utterly engrossing family drama from Romanian director CALIN PETER NETZER, winner of the Golden Bear Award at last year’s Berlinale, THE CHILD’S POSE is showing at BFI Southbank tonight.

An ambiguous study of obsessive maternal love with a riveting performance by LUMINITA GHEORGHIU (4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS, THE DEATH OF MR. LAZARESCU, BEYOND THE HILLS) as a steely, well-off Bucharest architect determined to keep her 30-something deadbeat son, BOGDAN DUMITRACHE, out of jail after his reckless driving kills a child. How far will she go to convince the police, eyewitnesses and even the victim’s family of her son’s innocence? Offering a spendid blend of psychological realism and social commentary, Netzer’s third feature is a caustic look at the moral turpitude of the Romanian nouveaux riches.

Romanian Director CALIN PETER NETZER

Romanian Director CALIN PETER NETZER

Below is an extract from an interview with Romanian actor BOGDAN DUMITRACHE taken on December 1, 2013 at Curzon Soho as part of the ROMANIAN FILM FESTIVAL IN LONDON.

(This interview has been translated from Romanian and edited for clarity and relevance)

Dana: How did you prepare for the two amazing roles you played this year, the troubled Barbu in The Child’s Pose, a film that won the 2013 Golden Bear Award, and Paul, the anxious young director in Corneliu Porumboiu’s new film When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism. And which role did you enjoy playing more?

Bogdan: I enjoyed playing both roles. And I like both directors, although they are completely different. Whereas Netzer is a rather dogmatic and perfectionist filmmaker, who has a fixed script from the beginning that you can’t adapt or fiddle with, the text is not to be modified, nothing is to be changed, you need to come fully prepared on the day of the shooting[…], Corneliu didn’t work like that, his script was a pretext, a starting point from which we built the characters and the story together.

Bogdan Dumitrache

Romanian actor Bogdan Dumitrache

Dana: How did you find your role in  The Child’s Pose? I found it very shocking.

Bogdan: Yes it was shocking even for me and seen from the outside the role is most definitely shocking. I played a “paralysed”, blocked character in this film. This inner paralysis comes from a very simple sentence: when you can’t make any plans for your future because you don’t know what it will look like, maybe you’ll be in jail and you won’t have any kind of future, in that moment you succumb to an emotional and mental blockage in which you deny everything and you are practically a vegetable. Without too many thoughts. So from this point of view the role was not too difficult to play, the character was ultimately simple to understand: he was either blocked or in denial, and in both cases his frustration would be so overwhelming that he would start to behave aggressively.

Dana: The relationship with the mother is extremely dysfunctional.

Bogdan: Yes, it is a relationship that borders on the pathological.

Dana: And the mother is a very pathological being!Hence probably the son’s shocking behaviour. Were there discussions around the character, how was this character introduced to you?

Bogdan: I was lucky because Netzer did the casting for all the roles except my role. He approached me one evening at the GOPO Awards, he came to me directly and said: “This character is you, you’re playing Barbu.” Then we met up and discussed the script, the character…

Dana: Were you surprised by this character?What was your first reaction?

Bogdan: Naturally the first reaction was one of surprise: “She is his mother after all, how can he do and say all those things to her?Has he no sympathy, no remorse, nothing whatsoever?”. And Netzer said: “No, he hasn’t”. So I went: “Okay, let’s see where his feelings come from…”. And I had a very long time to prepare. Because I have a casting agency in Bucharest and I helped Netzer with the casting, I basically got to learn all the roles by heart.

Dana: Do you know anything about the writing of the script?

Bogdan: Netzer wrote the script together with Razvan Radulescu and the script is to a certain extent autobiographical, they both have pretty tense relationships with their parents, so that was the source of inspiration. We had many discussions in which they tried to explain the logic of this character, as much as they could, then I just used my imagination. My advantage was that I had eight months to prepare, so when we started rehearsals I knew the character inside out, and all the other characters. And Luminita is an excellent actor, you can play very well alongside her. And gradually I got to understand, to a certain extent, what happens there.

Dana: Would an incestuous reading of their relationship be correct?

Bogdan: Yes, of course, the film opens this problematic although it doesn’t develop it further. There is the scene with the glove where things are bordering on incestuous. Roughly speaking, it is a great mistake to wish for your children to become what you yourself failed to be. And when a parent does this, after living an unfulfilled life…

Dana: Is this the true reason why though?

Bogdan: It’s probably connected to the fact that the parents are estranged from one another, they are not sharing the same bed anymore, their relationship is completely dysfunctional and Barbu is what keeps the family together artificially. They both project on Barbu what they wished to be, or what they wished their relationship to be. And this ruins Barbu’s life.

Dana: There is also a disturbing element of dependancy on his mother…

Bogdan: Indeed, when things go beyond the limits of what is normal, Barbu doesn’t know how to stop himself, he can’t separate himself from his mother, despite everything he says and does. He swears at her, calls her names, make a huge scandal, but he is not capable to get himself out of it , to say “Stop”.