The Romanian New Wave has been hitting us pretty hard the past decade. While filmmakers like Cristian Mungiu, Cristi Puiu and others have received wide international recognition (and thus, national funding) it is time to turn our attention to the younger generation.
At this year’s Future Frames masterclass at Karlovy Vary IFF we sat down with Matei Lucaci-Grunberg who is presenting his short film Bones for Otto in the programme. And no, it’s not a social realist drama, it’s a comedy about two prostitutes meeting by the road at night. Differences in professional experience create tension at first but connect them ultimately.
You made this film two years ago and it was the first film you didn’t write yourself. So how did the story come to you?
Matei Lucaci-Grunberg: It was actually the first film I made after university. A production company came to me with a script written by Lia Bugnar who is an actress in Romania and a playwright. She’s had a lot of success in independent theatre. I went to see the play and I liked it, it was a challenging project to do, although it is not the type of film I usually do. It was very hard to do a dialogue-based film with only two characters on the same location for 30 minutes.
Did you work with the author in the process of adapting the film?
MLG: Yes, because the play was 50 minutes long. I talked to her and we cut bits and parts of it. And then I had a bit of freedom to bring it closer to myself.
There’s quite a collection of prostitute characters in cinema to get inspired by, from Catherine Deneuve to Julia Roberts. How did you develop the characters in a fresh way, especially since these women are so often stigmatized?
MLG: I don’t know if I had the best approach to do it, actually. I had some things on my mind and then I just wanted to have two good actresses who I could lead in different directions. I wanted the experienced prostitute to be a bit more light-hearted, comedic and playful. The other, more serious and thoughtful. One is okay with what she is doing, seeing it as her job, it’s nothing special for her. The other one is absolutely terrified of everything that’s happening around her. Them being prostitutes was not the basis of the film, but the differences between two characters.
Let’s talk about your experience in film school. Did you find it helpful in teaching you how to direct a crew?
MLG: I had some interesting mentors at school but I think the best way to learn is to just do things and expose yourself to different situations with all the people, actors, technicians, DOP’s and so on. My first short movies were a disaster because I just thought “What do I do now? What do I do next? I’m not ready.” But when you work more and have to make choices and decisions, having the final word in a project, you get used to it.
You are doing many other things on the side: a doctor’s degree, theatre, radio. How are you going to continue with filmmaking?
MLG: I have a couple of projects. I shot a short movie that is almost ready. I’m also waiting for two films to be funded, and working on my feature length; probably my biggest project now. On the side, I am doing a lot of independent theatre. Bucharest is actually a good playground for this. And radio is more of a fun hobby, that also brings in some money.
Do you aim to make bigger films with bigger budget and a larger production scale, or are you prone to staying with smaller independently-financed projects?
MLG: It’s hard to say because right now I’m not thinking about bigger budgets. My feature film is going to be about a group of younger people who declare independence in the basement of an illegal club. For me it’s a small and independent-feeling project. But I hope to make some totally different kind of movies ten years from now,with more people, more money, more everything.
Name: Cora Frischling
C. Photo Credit: Bones for Otto (2016)
Interview with Matei Lucaci-Grunberg
Director of "Bones for Otto" (RO)
KVIFF - Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2017 - Future Frames: Ten New Filmmakers to Follow