Mungiu: I don't have the right explanation for why this is happening in Romania now, but there are some partial explanations. For example, you say it has become a habit of some people to go see Romanian films, and that explains a little bit what is going on. Once we managed to have the first film in Cannes, and then a second one, and then we started getting awards every year and having responses from lots of festivals, it was very motivating for everybody. There's a kind of a positive competition among these directors to respect this level of quality, to take themselves very seriously and to compare what they do with the others. There's also something about the way we make films. We are all our own producers, so there's no economic pressure. Nobody expects a result in terms of the marketplace. There is no market over there locally.
Marinca: More importantly, they're authors. They are the creators of their work.
Mungiu: This is an important point because I take this for granted. This is why it's so difficult for me to answer the question of whether I want to work in America. I mean, I don't think the way that I work is possible to be translated here, because I make all the decisions. If someone wants to work with me under these conditions here, I would come gladly. There's something else, which is very difficult to explain, which is that these new directors have thought more about cinema and they just have something more to say than some other generations which came before.
What are some of your filmmaking influences?
Mungiu: There is a common influence that I think we all have, but which is especially strong with me. I started wanting to make films not from watching something that was wonderful but from watching very stupid Romanian films. I would go to the cinema, and I would watch those films and think, "These people look like us and they seem to be talking the same language, but they are aliens. We don't talk like this. Nothing like this ever happens." It's hilarious! It was that reaction, I think, that made all of us think of cinema in terms of realism. But that doesn't answer your question.
I had influences, but I didn't really get a systematic education about cinema. I didn't come from Bucharest. I'm from up north. So I was seeing films at random. As a child, I could see American and French films. Then there was a period, when I was a student, when I could see what they called the cinematheque films: Tarkovsky and Kieslowski and the Nouvelle Vague and some Germans. But it all stopped in the '70s. You couldn't see anything that was contemporary. Then there was a video period in Romania, starting around 1987. You couldn't see films in the cinema any longer, but Romanian television would steal films from satellite or from VHS, and they would cut off the credits so you wouldn't know what film it was. Later on, when I got to film school, I discovered that I am kind of close to the Czech film school — Milos Forman's films from the '70s and Jirí Menzel — and to Italian neo-realism. But I like films: I don't like current [trends] or authors. I relate to individual films more.
Anamaria, did you always want to be an actress?
Marinca: Not at all. I was trained as a violinist from the time I was 6. My mother is a violinist, so I always had this background. But when I was 18, I just decided to try something else. All I'd known was music, and I just wanted to know if I was able to do something else. I was seeing a lot of movies, and I knew there were other solutions on those scenes — if I were to do it, I would have done it differently. I was very interested in the process — in that fine line between fiction and reality. That idea hounds me even now — that fiction is more real than reality. For an actor, we live more intensely when we're in a play or a movie.
This is a very subtle film in which a number of key actions take place entirely offscreen. But one thing you do choose to show — and it has become the most debated scene in the film — is the graphic image of the aborted fetus itself. Why was that important for you?
Mungiu: When I wrote, I thought I was going to show it, but later on I doubted myself, so I shot the scene two different ways, just to make sure that I had the option in postproduction. But once we were editing the film, it was obvious to me that it had to be there, because it is part of the story. Sometimes I wonder why people ask about this, because if you understand that I'm talking about a character who comes to understand something because of what she sees, it's very obvious for me. I never thought about this in terms of some political debate. It's part of what I wanted to say and part of my story. I thought that it was necessary to show things that are more terrifying when you see them than when you imagine them. It's up to you to find your own conclusion.
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