“It’s hard to say when abuse becomes apparent, but it is easy to go there”
by Stefan Dobroiu
- After a world premiere at Toronto, Romanian director Adrian Sitaru shows his drama The Fixer at Les Arcs. We talked to him about the film’s complicated dilemmas
Four years after his atmospheric Domestic [+see also:
film profile], Adrian Sitaru brought us not one, but two features in 2016: after showing his incest drama Illegitimate [+see also:
interview: Adrian Sitaru
film profile] at the Berlinale, he is now in competition at the 8th Les Arcs European Film Festival (from 10 to 17 December 2016) with another difficult topic in The Fixer [+see also:
interview: Adrian Sitaru
Cineuropa: The first word The Fixer brings to mind is “abuse”. What made you make the film?
Adrian Sitaru: The moral dilemma imagined by screenwriter Adrian Silişteanu is based on real events from when he worked as a fixer, combined with a personal dilemma related to the ethics of my own profession, which, even when nurtured by the best of intentions in the name of art, can become abuse. As in any profession, actually. As a matter of fact, the many discussions we had about this issue during screenwriting evolved into a short film, Art, so this dilemma led me to transform the topic not only into a feature, but into a short film too.
As a director, have you ever abused your actors or crew?
Generally, it’s hard to say when abuse becomes apparent, but it is easy to go there, even without realising it, as a director finds themselves in a position of authority. We have talked at length about abuse in other professions, about abuse as an ancestral impulse, even about how we abuse our own children, willing them to be the best, with the best of intentions. I think that whenever you force someone to do something against their will, it’s a form of abuse. But it’s also a grey area, open to discussion. To answer the question, I felt that I forced my actors (with logical arguments) to do something they didn’t want to, similarly to how journalists force, many times without arguments, certain declarations, or I have forced (without arguments) animals to behave as I wanted, but in journalism this can be called manipulation. Of course, nobody has died, and sometimes they were even well paid, but this is at the centre at these dilemmas.
What was the biggest problem during production?
The lack of money. The support we received from the Romanian National Film Center was ridiculously small, approximately €60,000, and not because of the decision-makers, but because of ridiculous rules. We didn’t manage to get much more from abroad, although the project had excellent feedback. At one point we postponed shooting, thinking that an excessively small budget would compromise the film. Personally, I felt frustrated that a film project with dialogues largely in French, with at least two French actors, and awarded by a Sarajevo jury including persons from the French CNC and ARTE could find almost no funding in France.
Diana Spătărescu, who plays the teenage prostitute in the film, is a true revelation. How did your conversations sound before shooting a sequence?
Our conversations were very normal. Diana is not only extremely talented, but also very intelligent and, which was perhaps most important for this part, very mature for her age. Casting for her part was very difficult, as we didn’t want to become authors of an abuse like the one in the screenplay. One of our conditions was that the girl we chose didn’t learn the meaning of her lines in the film from us. Also to respect her psychological age and innocence. We were assured by her, but more importantly her father, that she was aware of these things and understood them. Moreover, we talked about the possible repercussions of this kind of part on her real life.