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SARAJEVO 2018 Competition

Florin Şerban • Director

“I am a teenager who, in many respects, refuses to grow up”

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- When one shoots in wild locations, one must be prepared, says Romanian director Florin Şerban, whose Love 1: Dog was screened in competition at Sarajevo

Florin Şerban  • Director

The relationship between men and women is at the centre of Florin Şerban’s career. Here is what the Romanian director has to say about the difficult and adventurous production of his third feature, Love 1: Dog [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Florin Şerban
film profile
]
, which screened in the official competition of the Sarajevo Film Festival, and won the Cineuropa and the CICAE Awards to boot (see the news).

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Cineuropa: Love 1: Dog is your third love story. Do you accept the label of "Romania's most romantic director"? Why is it that in all of your films we explore the relationship between a man and a woman?
Florin Şerban:
 Love 1: Dog is a love story. And a Romanian western. And a thriller. Actually, it is exactly what you want it to be, except a comedy... But I am a romantic – really. Maybe I look "aloof", pretentious or dark, but these are only appearances. Actually, I am a teenager who, in many respects, refuses to grow up. I’m a teenager who has an extraordinary chance to express himself.

My fourth film, Love 2: America, also centres on a relationship between a man and a woman. It is a topic that preoccupies me. Moreover, I have always made the movies I would have wanted to watch but which were not made. I missed these films, so I made them. I think I have something to say about men and women in general. When I tell these things to myself, maybe others are open to “listening”, too.

Your films are similar in another respect, too: men have a lower social status than women. Do you see the female protagonist as an ideal? Or as a trophy that the man awards himself at the end of his journey (if he survives it)?
I don’t know what to say. Whatever I answer, the answer will not be politically correct. If I say the woman is an ideal, the feminists will tell me women are real and we should stop idealising them. If I say the woman is not an ideal, the more educated women will say that they are indeed an ideal. So I prefer not to answer this question. As for the trophy, if I think about my three films, I have to admit that that’s how it looks. It wasn’t my plan when I wrote the characters, but I suppose they come out as trophies. There must be something there. In my fourth film, the dynamic is completely different. As for me, in my life, the woman has never been and never will be a “trophy”, but an invitation to joy. 

There are few Romanian films that build a personal setting more efficiently than Love 1: Dog. What can you tell us about the art direction?
The film’s art director, Mihaela Poenaru, excelled herself. Actually, she excels herself every time, as we made all three of my films together, and none of them was easy. Indeed, Love 1: Dog was the most difficult. Mihaela and her team built the cabin from scratch. First, we drew it on paper, thinking how it was supposed to look so that it would be a projection of the protagonist. Then we searched for the right place to build it, which took a very long time. And then we built it exactly as one would build a home. We took logs from a soon-to-be-demolished house in the Hunedoara County, and we hauled them over to the clearing we chose for the set. It was very hard work, but it was essential for the film to have this house.

This is your first film without a non-professional actor playing one of the protagonists. Cosmina Stratan and Valeriu Andriuţă are both better known for their parts in Cristian Mungiu’s Beyond the Hills [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Cosmina Stratan
interview: Cristian Mungiu
interview: Cristian Mungiu
interview: Cristian Mungiu
film profile
]
. Did you decide to cast them after watching Mungiu’s film?
I chose Valeriu and Cosmina despite the fact that they played together in Beyond the Hills. It was a long, elaborate casting process, and they were simply the best people for the parts. On this occasion, I didn’t even consider working with amateurs, as the visual language and the direction necessitated professionals. I don’t start a project by thinking about using a certain type of actor. The story is king, and here, the story asked for Valeriu and Cosmina. I am glad it worked out like this. 

What was the biggest challenge during the production?
The casting was difficult. After I decided to work with Valeriu, we did a casting for the dog. It took so long, and we had to travel the entire country. We tried various breeds from several kennels. We had to find a dog able to work with Valeriu, and we finally found it somewhere near the village of Tohanu Nou. 

As for the actual shoot, I was afraid of accidents, afraid that something would happen to someone in the team. We shot in some pretty wild places, and even though we took precautions, an accident could always happen. We were visited by a bear who wanted to eat Gheorghe (the donkey in the film). We had many adventures – some of them I will tell as stories to my grandchildren. 

Love 1: Dog is your first film entirely edited by you. What made you take over the editing duties?
I like to edit, and I thought that I was the right person to do it for this project. I also edited Love 2: America. They are very personal films, and I didn’t want to share them. But this won’t always be the case – only now.

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