What projects have you been working on since The Death of Mr. Lazarescu?
Aurora is the only one, but it was a difficult one, and I had to do lots of things in order to have the information I was looking for. In fact it was not trying to make a film, it was trying to understand what is happening in this very specific and extreme situation when somebody is going to kill. I had to make all this documentation. In Bucharest I started talking to all these guys working for the homicide squad. A friend, a prosecutor, allowed me to watch how things are happening. I went to different scenes of crime. In Bucharest they told me there are around 50 killings per year, and most of them are happening because of alcohol and later on after Communism because of drugs as well. What they told me is that most of these crimes happen in the circle of family, inside the circle of acquaintances.
This was one of the triggers of this film. The question was, Why? We assume that we understand each other, and in the family it's easier to communicate-to make your point through more peaceful means than by eliminating the other, and his point of view as well. Everything [whistles] erased. After making this documentation, I realized we cannot escape this. The fact that if we are... [15-second pause] if we are facing oppositions, obstacles, we can resign or attack. There is a very interesting book about it. It's by a French thinker, Henri Laborit: Éloge de la fuite. He makes this idea very clear about the animals who react like this, when there is a conflict and there is danger. They either run away or attack.
And it was like, trying to understand how things are happening. I don't understand. I don't understand. It's too big for me.
It's a hard thing to explain.
That's why I decided not to explain and not to make out of it a demonstration of the fact, because I do not think art has something to do with demonstration. I think art is something completely different: from my position as a spectator, art is something that leads me to questions that cannot be expressed, formulated, through the means of any other domain. These five years from Lazarescu to Aurora were years of searching for a reason in order to get to be interested in making another film.
I was trying to restore what I experienced through this documentation that I made inside the judicial system. I talked to either policemen or criminals, murderers, and what I noticed and realized is something that really surprised me. It's nothing exceptional, maybe some other people realize it, but I didn't. It's why I made the character say something about how justice cannot understand what is happening with his wife. I realized that justice is there because it has to protect the society. It is not there to deliver the truth. It is not there for understanding what really happened. This is not defending the criminals, it is just that I am trying to say there is a problem and we cannot solve it, and this problem is related to the way things are working.
During this documentation I made, I saw a criminal, his wife was almost decapitated, and he was in a trance. After 30 years of marriage. Big kids, 20, 20-something. I went to the police station, and he started telling the story. And my friend the prosecutor was writing the story, but compressing the story. So it was very interesting: in front of me was a process, a legitimate process, a legal one, of distorting the facts. That means that in order to get to the point, to the information that we need for the file for the case, we are distorting the facts—not the facts, but the discourse of the killer. The prosecutor took from his testimony just those elements that he thought were revelatory for the case.
This was very interesting because it was very close to what stories in general are. And I do believe that stories do not exist, but that it is the storytellers that exist. The first lesson in cinema: cinema is an art of the ellipsis.
What you take out?
Yeah, because otherwise a film about the life of Napoleon would have to be 50 years long.
Napoleon by Andy Warhol?
Yeah, Andy Warhol. But this is a question related to what we are doing in film... If a criminal has his own diary, the diary won't fit the files. Again and again I tried to do my best to restore this. So we have this film of three hours, out of a film of five hours. What I kept in the film are things that for me, are revealing, like the prosecutor did, like the writers are doing. And maybe for the audience, some things are not revealing things. But it had to be like this, I had to go to the end.
So you restore the full details, but at the same time the film is not a facsimile of the killer's experience. Unlike his written confession, we don't understand everything that's happening along the way.
I don't know. When I decided to play the character myself, I decided to do all that I can to restore the facts. It is not a character that I am imagining. Of course I am imagining it, but I am also incarnating it. I am trying to be, not to play. Being there, using my body and my own pack of gestures, inside the story that was not mine but just pretending to be mine, trying to imagine, to understand how things are going to go in this very specific situation of a man who is killing some others.
It was not that I didn't want the audience to know. I want the audience to understand but the audience has to pay attention to what I am telling there. You are paying attention. What I didn't want to do was to install moments, sequences, lines that are revealing the identity of the characters. Because this is not happening in life!
It's the idea that people aren't wearing signs saying who they are or what they're doing next.
This is why directing the camera was so difficult: I used to tell them, you don't anticipate, you don't know the story! You don't film a story, you film humans. So, look at these humans. They are so beautiful! Whatever they do. There is something there—there is huge mystery there, not because of the situation, not because of the story, but because of the fact they are humans. And everything in a human being is mysterious. How to get to the point to put together what is direct cinema, observational documentary, and the fiction. How to put together that you are observing the world around you, and your own brain from the position of the author. So it was very important to play the main character because I didn't imagine, I tried to be me. The moment I decided that it would be me, the character, I took off lots of dialogue from the script, because I would not expose myself.
Thirty-six hours in the life of someone, and you are observing them—from time to time, things are clear, from time to time, things are not clear at all. But clear compared to what? You know, it's very funny: The Death of Lazarescu had the same destiny, but people appreciate it because they recognized lots of things that bothered them, like hospitals and the health care system. Very quickly we position ourselves, that they are the guilty ones, the doctors, the health system, you find the scapegoat, they are the scapegoat. Nobody is trying to put themselves in the position of the doctor. It is not an easy job to do, to face death every day, the doctors who are working in emergency. Of course they are not saints, of course they are making mistakes. But we jump to judging them, and I didn't in the film, but most of the audience did and they were happy with this. And they weren't happy with the fact that we spend one hour, fifty and something minutes in the apartment. They wanted to go to the hospital. They said yes the film is good, but the first hour is painful. I can't help them! For me, the first hour was very important, and it still is one of the best things in this film, not the relation with doctors.
Anyway, long debate here. The same situation is in Aurora. Who are these guys? We know it's about killing, and we are waiting for the killing. We knew that the film Death of Lazarescu is about hospital, we are waiting for the hospital. Oh, this beginning is too long, let's go to the hospital! And it is not right. This is not about the audience is not intelligent. It is about expectations. Expectations are being created by the title. Death of Lazarescu was a situation where what I tried to do was to play the Titanic card: everyone knows what happened on the Titanic. From the title, The Death of Lazarescu, and two minutes after the beginning on the film, he is talking on the phone and saying his name twice, Dante Lazarescu. So this guy is going to die. So it is not about what happens next, it is about how things are going to happen, like the Titanic.
And in Aurora, I wanted to do something else. It is about what will happen next. Following him and the title will not reveal what the story is. Actually, it reveals at the symbolic level, but there can be hundreds of thousands of films with the same title Aurora and tell different stories.
"Aurora" could have been a love story.
Of course. Like Murnau, it is Aurora: Sunrise! He was another starting point. Great filmmaker, really great filmmaker. But his story is about what he wishes, not how the things are happening. And I had the problem with it. And I think lots of directors are doing so, and I am not against it, I am just noticing it. I am not interested in this. I am interested in how the things really are. I don't know, but I try to understand. I try to get closer and closer.
But what I wanted to say is that we are not virgin. There is the title, there is the poster, there is what people are saying it, there is the killing. The poster on Aurora is important: it is myself on a bicycle by the rail tracks. No killing. I had a long discussion with our co-producer because he wanted me with a gun. I said, No, it is not about killing! Killing is a pretext. This film is about somebody who is following his ideas. If you are following your ideas, you end on killing people. I think yes!
Well, in this case, the character seems to be in a bad place.
I don't know what to think. I don't know what to say about this. Observing people around you leads to different conclusions. We are not observing people around us. If we are paying attention to how people are behaving, things are completely different. We are simplifying the world because we need our comfort, we need to know, even superficial, we need the answers to these questions, why are we here. I think that things are much more complicated. One of the problems that the audience has to face while watching Aurora is that what they know, what you know, about killing is something that visually comes through the means of cinema. Especially the fiction films, and then the news documentaries and other materials.
I think this is a problem of perception. But I think films and all these artistic objects, and not just artistic objects, are there in order to clarify our position and our perception. What I really think is that if we go to the extent, the whole extent of our ideas and vision of the world, we will end by killing. And this is because life, living in society, in a community, it is about negotiating your view on the world, my view, making compromises, and this is how things are. We do our best in order to make our lives livable. If we stick on our ideas on how the world is, on what the world is, what is good, what is bad, we end by killing.
In which the house style of the Romanian New Wave begins to grate.
Oct 1, 2010