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SARAJEVO 2018 Competition

Ana Lungu • Director

“I try to make a connection between all my movies”

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- We chatted to Romanian director Ana Lungu, whose third feature, One and a Half Prince, is currently being screened in the official competition of the Sarajevo Film Festival

Ana Lungu  • Director

Romanian director Ana Lungu impressed in 2015 with her coming-of-age drama Self-Portrait of a Dutiful Daughter [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, which premiered at International Film Festival Rotterdam. Now she is back with a sequel of sorts, One and a Half Prince [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Ana Lungu
film profile
]
, currently screening at the Sarajevo Film Festival. Here is what she had to say about her complex take on friendship, but also about how difficult it is to make independent features in Romania.

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Cineuropa: One and a Half Prince feels like a sequel to your previous feature, Self-Portrait of a Dutiful Daughter. Would you agree?
Ana Lungu:
Yes, I think you could say that. The approach was similar to my first movie, The Belly of the Whale, which I directed together with Ana Szel in 2010. In both films, I worked with a friend, we developed a script together inspired by her life, and then she played the main character. I try to make a connection between all my movies because I think they have some things in common. In a way, all three prefer to portray a certain social category than tell a certain story. So there are actors who played in a previous film and then appear in the next one. For example, Iris Spiridon and Istvan Teglas played supporting roles in Self-Portrait…, and now they play the main characters. I would like to continue down this path in the future.

How did you work with the actors? Some scenes seem improvised, and non-professional actors play themselves in the film. How did they influence the story and the screenplay?
From the very beginning, the script was written for these actors. They are friends and collaborators of Iris’ in real life. Iris is a theatre director, and she directed several plays with them. In choosing them I was more interested in their personalities than in their acting abilities. You could say it was a casting of people, rather than a casting of actors. They play themselves, but in a fictitious story. For example, Marius Manole doesn’t have a child, Iris is not actually an actress and so on. 

The main actors are more experienced on the stage than they are in front of the camera. How did you work with them so that they could adapt to the big screen?
Yes, Marius Manole, Istvan Teglas and Laszlo Matray are well-known Romanian theatre actors. Laszlo is also collaborating with the Hungarian National Theatre in Budapest. I think it helped that the script was, from the very beginning, written for them. We used this method: during rehearsals, we would decide on the theme of a certain scene, and they would improvise the dialogue. Later, I would watch the rehearsal takes, and together with Iris, we would decide which lines to keep. Then, during the actual shoot, we would use those lines.

This is your second indie feature. How hard is it to make a film without public funding in Romania? Would One and a Half Prince have been a different film with a more accommodating budget?
It is very, very hard; Anca Puiu, the producer who stood by me in both cases, can confirm this. I was lucky that both she and Cristi Puiu are extremely supportive of this kind of cinema. For me, it was an exhausting experience, and I even had some health problems related to the stress it generated. Production-wise, One and a Half Prince was more complex than my previous film, so the work was more intense. I am really grateful to a number of friends and collaborators who helped us. For example, for the shoot in Transylvania, it was screenwriter Răzvan Radulescu who came along from Germany together with some of his students. They became part of the team, and they also brought the camera and some other technical equipment. 

Would you say a small budget creates artistic limitations? Or is it an invitation to inventiveness?
It depends; in the case of my previous film, it helped in a way. As it was an independent production, I felt freer to cast non-professional actors – my parents, for example. But One and a Half Prince was a more complex production, and having no funding was a real issue. We couldn't shoot all of the scenes from the original script; I had to leave out 30%-40% of it.

Your first involvement in the production of a feature was for The Death of Mr. Lăzărescu [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
. Then you produced your own features through Mandragora, Cristi Puiu’s production company. How important was it for you to work with him?
I was, of course, influenced by the cinema of Cristi Puiu. As a student, I used to borrow books and videotapes from Cristi and Anca’s home. That’s how I discovered the cinema of John CassavetesJean EustacheFrederick Wiseman and others – filmmakers we didn’t study at film school, where we only learnt the classical cinema of Bergman, Antonioni and Tarkovsky. Just after graduation, I worked as a script continuity supervisor on The Death of Mr. Lăzărescu and then as assistant director for various commercials. Working with Puiu felt more like a film school to me than the actual film school in Bucharest. Also, on the set of …Lăzărescu, I met future friends and collaborators such as Ana Szel, Dana BunescuRadu Jude and Maria Săvulescu Emory

Are you in development with a new feature? What is it about?
My next project will be a documentary – a very personal one.

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