"A film that revives the past must also discuss the representational aspect of cinema"
by Stefan Dobroiu
- The winner of the Special Jury Prize at this year’s Locarno Film Festival, Radu Jude’s Scarred Hearts, is released on 18 November in Romania
Almost two years after he won the Berlinale’s Silver Bear for Best Directing with Aferim! [+see also:
interview: Radu Jude
film profile], Radu Jude once again explores a period rarely present in the Romanian cinema landscape: the 1930s, seen in Scarred Hearts [+see also:
interview: Radu Jude
film profile] through the eyes of a young Jew suffering from bone tuberculosis. The director sat down with Cineuropa to talk about the film’s scope and approach.
Cineuropa: What convinced you to adapt Max Blecher’s literary work?
Radu Jude: It was a long process. I discovered Max Blecher in high school, and I went back to him four years ago, when my friend Dan Nicolaescu from the Anthony Frost Bookshop gave me the idea to adapt Scarred Hearts. It was only when I read his other books that I realised I could make a film based on his literary work, from which I tried to keep some narratives and ideas, some dialogues and images.
Moreover, if you look at it from the present day, the end of the 1930s in Romania is a period that deserves to be explored. My film only uses it as a background for the story, but it is an essential background. In short, the film can be described as Scarred Hearts by Max Blecher meets The ‘30s. The Romanian Far-Right by Z Ornea (editor’s note - a historical analysis of the dawn of political extremism in Romania). As for what attracted me to Blecher’s work, it was his very special perspective on life, his particular sensitivity, his poetry. I am impressed with the courage, dignity and lack of sentimentalism with which he faced his agony.
You are one of the few directors in Romania willing to discover new talents. How did you find Lucian Teodor Rus, and what convinced you to offer him the first leading part of his career?
We organised an old-fashioned casting session, and I chose Lucian because I found him very befitting for what I had in mind. Nothing spectacular this time, unfortunately.
The Cineuropa review deems Scarred Hearts “an invitation to feel compassion”. Do you expect this reaction from the audience?
For me, the film is mainly a medium where I can propose and discuss ideas. This doesn’t exclude the “compassion” you mention or other feelings, but I don’t consider them essential. The viewers are free to react how they want to the film.
What do you think are the main advantages of historical film as a genre? Maybe the revealing of unknown or little-known historical facts?
I have no idea whether cinema is the best medium for revealing unknown historical facts; this is an aspect that is not really a concern of mine, especially as I am not a historian. Moreover, I don’t really know what they understand by historical film. If we talk about movies that discuss the past, then the range of possibilities is gigantic, from Hollywood productions to films directed by Jean-Marie Straub and Danielle Huillet, from TV shows like Rome to The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceauşescu [+see also:
film profile] by Andrei Ujică, let alone the endless list of propaganda films of all sorts. I think that a film that revives the past must also discuss the representational aspect of cinema. This is the main problem that historians face, as access to a past time is possible only through various representations.
In your next feature, you will go back to Odessa in 1941, when the Romanian army executed thousands of Jewish civilians. What is the main challenge of this project?
Exactly what I have just said. Besides this, the film will question epistemological relativism and the relationship between art and history, the utility of political art. At least these are my intentions now. I have no idea how many will become a reality.