FILM

Berlinale Forum | 2019

Marius Olteanu

Writer/Director
Monştri/Monster

WORLD PREMIERE

Romania

A longtime married couple comes to decide within 24 hours, through encounters with strangers, that letting go might be their biggest proof of love.

 

Hi Marius thanks for talking to TNC, you all set for the festival?

 

Hi. It is a pleasure to be talking to you. Almost set, adding the final touches to the film’s trailer and being very pleased with the results. It is intense and emotional and cool in the same time.

 

With a festival like the Berlinale do you ever get nervous ahead of your screening?


I don’t really get nervous about these things - I can’t actually wait to see how the audience will react to the film and I hope the discussions after the screening will be as fulfilling as the whole process of making this film was.

 

As this is your World Premiere are there any additional pressure on you?


Probably there is but I am so happy and proud to have this opportunity of showing my film in such a great festival, that all I feel is excitement and a lot of energy. As said before, I hope this will lead to interesting discussions and also meeting interesting people and possibly starting new and challenging projects.

 

Monsters. is nominated for the TEDDY AWARD, what does it mean to you to get this type of recognition for your film?


Homosexuality is still a very touchy subject in Romania, where the film was made and where the action is set. The homosexual characters bear the traits and the judgement of heterosexual society that is still not really accepting them - in a sense they could be their worst enemy, the enemy from inside, and the ones who should start by accepting themselves. It is a long discussion to be held on this matter and the Teddy Award nomination is a great indicator of the fact that Monsters. could be a good starting point for this discussion.

 

Can you tell me a little bit about Monsters, how did this film come about?


It was a long creative process that started in 2015 with a short film called Tie. That film was only showing the wife’s story - the husband’s one and their story together were left out. I used those background stories in my rehearsals with the actors and also in taking the artistic decisions together with the director of photography and the production designer. 

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The more I was thinking of the entire story, though, the more it grew on me, the more I felt the need to tell it as a whole. I also felt the urge to find out more, to test my imagination against the reality of others and so I started doing interviews with long-time married people. I incorporated them into my characters. Arthur is the one that had the most to gain from the husbands I did the interviews with. And this is just part of it. We participated in the film at pitching sessions, Cluj, Locarno, Torino, Karlovy Vary where the project gained even more depth, with almost every input. Thinking back it was an incredible journey and in this journey, I never stopped finding out things about my characters, the people I worked with and myself. It was all thrills and revelations. 

"...photography was something I fell in love with very early on..."

What was the inspiration behind your screenplay?

 

I wanted to make a film about people in their late thirties, questioning their ability to love and to go towards the other one, to make compromises yet not abandon oneself. I saw in my family and around me people tormented by the need of being what they knew they weren’t, they need to be the perfect, the perfect mother, the perfect husband, the perfect son or the perfect neighbor, someone who leads an examplary life. Even at the expense of his or her own happiness. I wanted to question this need to be what the other want at the risk of getting further away from everyone, including one’s self.

 

Being a writer/director do your own personal experiences find their ways into your scripts?


I need to take a subject really seriously in order to turn it into a film and I always feel there is a strong link between my stories and my life - everything that I am and I have experienced informs the way I see people and things around me. But I also feel the need to have a certain distance from my characters, from the story that I am telling. It is a funny mix between reality, my reality, and my imagination. I have always liked to imagine things and this is one of my most powerful drives in being a filmmaker. Reality is just the starting point.

 

What was the most challenging part of bringing this film to life?

 

Finding the right actors for the parts of Dana and Arthur was the most challenging part. I have changed the main actress two days before starting principal photography because I needed to look at my actors and not see great actors mastering their craft but real people having real problems. I remember shooting the final scene of the film at the rail station, a very difficult and painful scene for the characters, and telling the main actor “If you are not Arthur in this very moment, we might as well jump in front of the next train, this film won’t feel true. And if it’s not true, it’s nothing.” A bit extreme but still...I care very much for the truth of the character and I feel it is the only thing that makes me live a film, not just watch it. I have very strong feelings about this.

Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?

 

I always had a passion for telling stories. As a child, I was always making my friends’ mothers really angry because their sons and daughters would stay late outside and listen to my stories. As I am approaching 40, shooting video in my youth wasn’t as easy as it is now. Still, photography was something I fell in love with very early on - my father gave me a Russian camera, Zenith, and from then on the stories started having a visual side. It was an instant love story.

 

Has your approach and style to you films changed much since your debut film?


Yes, it did. I feel I had a breakthrough with my 2007 NFTS short film “Sunday Afternoon”, the story of three old friends going to the seaside, knowing that one of them is terminally ill and planning to kill himself. There is something there that feels honest and powerful, something I think was lacking in my previous films, something that is human. NFTS, through its tutors, especially Ian Sellar, kept on popping the question “Why?” - why is the character doing this, why do you shoot it this way, why this twist, why in this light and so on - everything had to answer this question. I realized, with "Sunday Afternoon", that after one year of NFTS and meeting really talented directors and filmmakers, this question was always answered in my head, even if sometimes I wasn’t fully aware of the process. I have learnt how to make creative choices and found out where I stood in terms of what interested me as subjects and visual approach. Things kept on evolving ever since, but in 2008 I think I found the answer to the biggest Why?

How important is the collaborative process on a project like this?

 

On this film, I had a few collaborators that showed me why it is so great to be working with people who understand the project and its needs. The director of photography, Luchian Ciobanu, the main actress, Judith State, the production designer, Alexandra Alma Ungureanu Store, the delegate producer Carla Fotea, they are all people who were there with me and for me and for this film. They took my ideas and elevated them, made them better. I took their ideas and made the film richer, more nuanced, more lifelike. One way or another, almost all my collaborators on this project brought in a part of their life and their experience for which I am very thankful. Especially now.

 

What are you currently working on?

 

I started writing the script for my next film, a horror-infused drama about a man who comes to believe his house is trying to kill him. I am also working on a video installation project together with Luchian Ciobanu, on how people in their 40s relate to their journey in life, on how being in the middle of this journey affects one’s perception of it.

 

And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Monsters?

 

My biggest hope is that those who would see Monsters. will think of their own lives and own compromises and make an effort to get closer to understanding who they are and why they are the way they are. Hopefully, this will bring them a bit more understanding and tolerance towards people who differ from them, a thing we all seem to lack more and more in these crazy times.