Romanian films are always bound to cause much excitment in Cannes.. In this edition of the event, Radu Muntean's One floor below is already one of the most talked about contender. We sat down with the director to know all the details about his Un Certain Regard entry.
The characters in the film seem weirdly paradoxical. What inspired them?
Well I think the killer, Vali, and Patrascu, the main character are playing a game and the first is chasing the latter – his is pushing him to the limits, trying his luck to check if he is going to report what he witnessed.
Why is Patrascu not motivated to reveal what he witnessed in the apartment below his?
I guess he doesn’t want to get involved as this is going to take him out of his routine and he really does not want this. He has a very easy-going, normal life and he believes that if he goes to the police, he will ruin all this. He doesn’t have the control in this situation though as he feels bullied in a certain kind of way and he doesn’t want the other people to believe that he is vulnerable.
Is there a cultural reason, or perhaps him wanting to protect his family that stopped him for telling the truth?
Maybe it is cultural, it depends. We grow up and we are forced to adopt certain norms in the society we live in. So it is really everyone’s own responsibility how they are going to react in similar situations. For certain Patrascu has a strong character – probably this is one of the main characteristics of an authentic Romanian guy – and he doesn’t want his wife or his son to believe that he cannot handle a situation; he needs to be the model figure. I wanted to take the character out of his comfort zone and I think I managed this.
What would you do if you were in Patrascu’s shoes?
I don’t know. Probably I would tell the truth, but sometimes when you find yourself at a situation like this you just act differently. The character didn’t speak because he wasn’t sure how to handle the consequences.
You pay attention to details. Did you rehearse all the scenes? How was the filming procedure?
Because I do a lot of adverts, I am used to being very precise. So I gathered everyone and we rehearsed every scene before shooting. I needed them to know exactly how every single thing is happening. Sometimes I need to cut scenes before their actual end, just to keep the smooth flow in the film.
Do you think some people try to categorize your work in certain ways?
Yes, it happens a lot. Even yesterday some interviews asked why I chose this particular ending and I didn’t have something more surprising. But I never wanted to do a horror film or use Hollywood clichés. Since the beginning I wanted to have all the cards on the table. We know everything that the characters know and this helps us better to relate to his story.
Did you want to point out something by showing extensively Patrascu’s relationship with his dog? He seems to be more attached to it than to his son. Is this something you intended to expose?
I don’t think he is not communicating well with his son. He just likes dogs very much and he bought it for his son. But as the boy wasn’t taking care of it as he’s preoccupied with his video games and lives in a virtual reality, Patrascu found himself responsible of the animal. Actually Patrascu’s son was inspired by my own son, who used to sleepwalk and talk during his sleep about the video games he was playing all day long.
Do you consider yourself part of the new Romanian cinema wave?
I wouldn't like to label things. Of course we all know each other, we exchange ideas, scripts and we interact but I wouldn't say that we have the same aesthetic. If you want to call it a wave, at least we should change the name, it’s not new anymore. I am curious what is going to happen in 5-10 years.
How are Romanian films received in Romania?
Not really well. Aferim! is a recent example that did well - just because of its topic and because it was released right after the Berlinale. But still, good is subjective. 60.000 tickets are not a lot. Can you imagine that the box office tells people at cinemas: Are you sure you want to go to this film? Is Romanian. (laughing)
Interview with Radu Muntean (Romania)
Director of "One floor below"
Name: Martin I. Petrov