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PRODUCTION / FUNDING Romania / Czech Republic

Tom Wilson putting the finishing touches to Dark Ages

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- The new Romanian thriller is being produced by Corneliu Porumboiu’s production company, 42 Km Film

Tom Wilson putting the finishing touches to Dark Ages
Dark Ages by Tom Wilson

When a film industry has limited resources, the genres it nurtures are limited, too: after years of no thrillers being produced in Romania, it seems that Corneliu Porumboiu’s production company, 42 Km Film, now specialises in this genre. After Bogdan Mirică’s Dogs [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Bogdan Mirica
film profile
]
and Porumboiu’s own The Whistlers [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Corneliu Porumboiu
film profile
]
, the company is now close to delivering British director Tom Wilson’s third feature, Dark Ages. The project is being produced by Porumboiu and Roxana Garet through 42 Km Film, and co-produced by Tomáš Michálek and Martina Netíková through Czech production company Cinémotif Films.

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The screenplay, written by Wilson and Loredana Novak, focuses on the family of single mother Angela (Cosmina Lirca), whose life is disrupted when elderly artist Carmen Dumitru (Diana Gheorghian) returns to Bucharest after having lived in New York for two decades. Angela’s teenage daughter, Sara (Una Toma), is immediately drawn to Carmen’s unconventional behaviour. What the family doesn’t know is that Carmen returned to Romania to finish her last-ever artwork, a film that will expose a deep-rooted conspiracy regarding the role of art in society, and things will soon spiral out of control.

The film was shot over 24 days in July and August last year. Bogdan Filip was the DoP. The budget amounts to circa €666,000. The Romanian National Film Center supported the project with circa €260,000, while €150,000 came from the Czech Film Fund.

Director Wilson describes his film as “a thriller with an arthouse edge to it”. “I wanted to create something with the structure of a thriller, but with a bizarre, esoteric idea about the role of the theory of aesthetics at its centre. I wanted to create something that people would still watch even if they had zero interest in these far-out theories about aesthetics,” Wilson explains.

And, of course, we had to ask for more information about that “bizarre, esoteric idea”. “In the film, Mrs Dumitru is extremely critical about art in relation to society. […] Mrs Dumitru would argue that The Aesthetic is an invention, created to replace religion, with artistic self-expression taking on the role previously occupied by God: individualistic post-enlightenment societies needed a theology on which to base their atomistic vision of society, and The Aesthetic provided them with it.

“The film does have things to say about contemporary Romania, but these observations are never pushed centre stage; it's more the background for the discussion. The film is much more concerned with questioning the act of self-expression itself, and asking: does this matter? Is this something worth doing? Is this of value? When I'm in a good mood, I'd suggest that these are important questions to ask if we want to really value art: we need to interrogate something in order to properly appreciate its value. We come out of the process valuing art more. When I'm in a bad mood, I'd simply say that art isn't worth doing and is literally a side-show (Mrs Dumitru would agree). And I honestly don't think there's anyone out there who doesn't flip between these two positions. Frequently. That's why creating anything can be such a difficult and draining experience. And it's also perhaps why we do it,” the director explains.

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