Radu Muntean • Director
"I wanted to make a film about how, in our search for identity, we need unconditional love"
- LOCARNO 2018: We chatted to Romanian director Radu Muntean, whose sixth feature, Alice T., screened in the official competition of the Locarno Film Festival and won an award to boot
Romanian director Radu Muntean makes a significant departure from his usual topics with Alice T. [+see also:
interview: Radu Muntean
film profile], a coming-of-age drama about a teenager who gets pregnant. Andra Guţi, a first-time actress, won the Best Actress Award at the Locarno Film Festival for her performance. Here is what the director has to say about how he discovered the talented teenager, how they worked together for the film, and the challenges that cropped up while he was making his female-centred family drama.
Cineuropa: What were the biggest challenges on the project, and why was it so important that the protagonist be adopted?
Radu Muntean: In my family, we have had, and still have, cases of adopted children, and my relationship with them and the way I tried and sometimes managed to understand certain decisions of theirs form the basis of the film. Sure, it was clear from the very beginning that I didn’t want to show a case study, but rather to make a movie about how, in our search for identity, we need, sometimes desperately, absolute, unconditional love. And in this endeavour, an ideal vehicle for the story was a type of character that faces life with a significant emotional handicap and is willing to do anything in order to erase the impression they were just an accident.
Do you think the communication between teenagers and parents is more difficult today than when you were a teenager yourself?
It is a question I have asked myself many times. I had hoped that my experience with the development of Alice T. would help me clarify these things and make me better prepared for when my children became teenagers. The irony was that immediately after wrapping production, I was welcomed at home by two teenagers who would refuse to communicate. Or they would communicate that they didn’t feel as understood as they would have wanted and that they would rather face their parents’ absence than their understanding. Maybe we, the parents of today, are more aware that there is a communication barrier in our relationship with teenagers. And if we don’t succeed in breaking down this barrier, the least we can do is to try to tolerate it as it is.
Andra Guţi is excellent as the troubled Alice. How did you discover her, and how did you work together?
We auditioned almost 800 girls during the casting. Andra came together with a few colleagues; I think she was more interested in having fun than in getting the part, and maybe that’s exactly why her first audition was so great. After a few more auditions, it became apparent to me that she was the only one who would play a very good Alice and that, provided she doesn’t make bad choices in her career, she will surely become an excellent actress. Between the casting and the shoot, we had several months for training and rehearsals. Many of these were with an audience because I wanted to prepare her for the pressure of shooting.
This is the fifth film you have written with Răzvan Rădulescu and Alexandru Baciu. How has your collaboration evolved since The Paper Will Be Blue (2006)? Was Alice T. a departure from your usual way of writing together?
We work the same way every time, but every new topic has its challenges. Working on Alice T. was as intense as usual, but more difficult than the other screenplays we wrote together. It was our first female protagonist, a teenager who is hard to like, and whose extreme actions had to be part of a structure that was more elliptical than those we tried before.
Are you developing a new feature? What is it about?
Yes, we are now considering going back to a story we abandoned so that we could focus on Alice T. If we succeed in getting it right, it will be a screenplay on the topic of generosity.
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