An unusual policier
by Adriaan Pietersz
- The second film by Romanian director Corneliu Porumboiu turns an established genre on its head
Cineuropa: When did you start thinking about Police, Adjective [+see also:
interview: Corneliu Porumboiu
Corneliu Porumboiu: After my first film, 12:08 East of Bucharest [+see also:
interview: Corneliu Porumboiu
interview: Daniel Burlac
film profile], I started working on five different scripts, but none of them offered what I was really looking for. Then last year I started writing a new one, and after three drafts I found this story.
Your first film was concerned with what defined a revolution, and now you are looking at the definitions of words in a larger sense…
Yes, this is something that interests me. But it is not that I went back to look at my first film and then wrote this one. I don’t like to watch my films again. After seeing it in Cannes in a room with 800 strangers I have to let it go, it is not really my movie anymore. The other scripts I started working on were in a similar vein of realism but were concerned with other things. But they were all set in Vaslui, because it is a world that I know very well, and where I feel I immediately know the characters as well.
Your hometown plays an important role in your work, not only as a physical place but also because it is so clearly not Bucharest.
Yes, small towns are very different from places like Bucharest. What keeps the people busy, what they are worried about are other things, smaller things. Things that I feel that I know, so that’s why I set my films there.
How did you work on the camera movements? They seem very carefully choreographed.
When I am writing the story, I already think about how it will look and work visually. I’m very attracted to this kind of cinema, and in this case the story is perfect, because the protagonist is following someone and I follow the protagonist, so I am following the follower. And since he is not sure about the definition of things, as we will discover later in the film, it makes sense that it is sort of a search at the beginning to understand what is going on, both for the protagonist and the audience. I tried to shorten that search at the beginning, but it didn’t work, so I put everything I cut back in. In the end, almost everything that I shot is in the film, there are not a lot of deleted scenes.
Could you explain the three, long, single-take shots in the film?
There are three long shots of about ten minutes each, so about half an hour of the film is composed of only three takes! There is the scene in the kitchen and the living room when the police officer’s wife is listening to this song and she goes on about its meaning. Then there are two ten-minute segments with one quick shot in between that are in a way the finale of the film, with the dictionary and whole discussion about the meaning of words. In a way it is quite radical to do it this way, my first film was not that radical. I started to think about this already at the writing stage, but fine-tuned it once we found the locations, because they influence what and how you shoot. But I never do rewrites once the script is finished, I’m a writer-director who first writes and the directs.
The film takes the policier genre that the title also alludes to and turns it on its head…
I liked this idea a lot. The main character is a police officer who is trying to solve a case, a crime, so this seems like the normal set-up for a policier. But unlike a normal policier, where one clue leads to another and in 90 minutes everything is neatly solved and justice is served, here it goes in a completely different direction.