A short talk with the actors from And they may still be alive today
First time lead actors, Nicoleta & Bogdan talked about beginnings, relationships and shared childhood memories
First things first – when did you start thinking about acting as a career?
Nicoleta: Initially I thought it happened in high school, but recently I realised it all began as a child; watching cartoons and movies, I started to copy those characters, it was my escape from reality. My aunt told me that even on holidays when I went to her, I would dress up as a fairy or a princess every day. And in high school, I started thinking about choosing a profession, one that I would like, but would also be productive – I’m not sure I got the latter (laughs). I don’t know how this idea came to me, we didn’t have a theater in Sighișoara. But I decided to give it a try, so I applied at the BA in Acting in Bucharest, I got in, and that was it.
Bogdan: When I was in the 9th grade, I fell in love with a girl who was two years older than me. We ended up together and when she finished high school, she had to move to Cluj for university; I wanted to go with her, even though I was just finishing 10th grade. I looked for a high school where I could transfer and I found the “Octavian Stroia” High School of Choreography and Dramatic Art; since I was an introvert, it seemed like a good idea to do two years of theater, no matter what what happens nextt. I called that high school every week because they initially told me that no transfers could be made unless someone was expelled, but that had never happened. One day, they called me and told me they couldn’t believe it, but a student had been expelled. I had a lot to learn for admission – several monologues, short stories, Bucur Stan was a teacher and he didn’t want anyone to pass the admission exam, but I got in.
Tell me a bit about your artistic path, I know you both worked mostly in theater.
Bogdan: In college, I did theater. I also played in some short films, I even did a medium-length film. As soon as I finished college, I went to a casting for White Gate, by Nicolae Mărgineanu – I liked my role, I was the young Father Arsenie Boca and I got a nomination for it at the Gopo Awards. I continued to play in short films and feature films, but mostly theater. I work at the Sică Alexandrescu Theater, in Brașov, and at Excelsior, in Bucharest. I also collaborate with unteatru, which I like a lot.
Nicoleta: I (too) flirted with both theater and film in college. As I graduated, I made my debut at Bulandra in a play by Ducu Darie, and shortly after, I had two more plays there. My first role in a feature film was in A love story, Lindenfeld, by Radu Gabrea. At about 25, I joined Victor-Ioan Frunză’s theater troupe – Trupa fără nume (The Nameless Troupe). I also continued to work in film, but the role in And They May Still Be Alive Today is clearly the most important one and was also the most demanding.
What are the things that you find most frustrating as actors?
Nicoleta: At the moment, it bothers me that we have to return 41% of the allowance to the state. Although we were not allowed to work during the pandemic – because the state decided so, now, after a year with no income, we have to give back a considerable amount of the money received. I think the situation of the independents is easy to overlook, we are still seen as insignificant and I find it frustrating. I don’t think I’m the only one.
Bogdan: I empathize, although I’m not in the same position since I am an employee. But as an employee, I find it frustrating when cultural institutions are managed by people who are not qualified for the job. The local authorities in provincial cities do not understand the importance of culture, most of these people are politically appointed, and the quality of the productions has to suffer.
These roles you play in Tudor Jurgiu’s film are your first main roles in a feature film. Do you remember how you felt the night before the first day of shooting?
Nicoleta: No, but I remember the first day of shooting, which was quite difficult. It was the end of September and we had to shoot the scene in the sea. After I got out of the water, I started shaking uncontrollably.
Bogdan: I don’t quite remember, I think I was nervous. Before starting shooting, we had some rehearsals with the team – we had a great team, by the way, which made me feel very comfortable, and on the first day of shooting I remember that we had a stuntman, Attila Nemes, who reassured me nothing bad would happen (laughs).
What tools have you used in building your characters?
Nicoleta: I think there are characters you sense from the start and others where the process takes longer. I liked very much the scene I auditioned with and I think I understood quite fast what Tudor wanted. This is probably why I took the casting (laughs); of course, rehearsals helped a lot, too.
Bogdan: When I auditioned, Nicoleta was already cast and I remember that even though I liked a lot the scene I was given, I didn’t feel any connection with Nicoleta; I felt this is an improbable couple and I told Tudor, too.
Nicoleta: Well, that’s news to me.
Bogdan: I got the idea only after reading the whole script, so I decided to build my character accordingly.
I couldn’t empathize with Clara at all, I felt that nothing would please her and that in the end, the relationship went south because of her.
Bogdan: Exactly what I felt (laughs); however, in the end, these are Tudor’s traumas.
The film borrows several ideas found only in fairytales, which are translated into the relationship of a modern couple. What has attracted you both to this story?
Nicoleta: The fact that she’s crazy (laughs). When I auditioned, I received the scene where she starts babbling and I admit I like characters that are a bit odd; and the fact that I got the freedom to improvise and play with the character since the casting call, which was really nice. Moreover, I think it’s a challenge to play in a two-character film.
Bogdan: I liked the poetry of the writing, I admire Tudor for his courage and determination. The first time I read the script, I couldn’t imagine how it will look like, so it felt good to trust someone like Tudor with his vision. And then, there were a lot of scenes I really enjoyed – half of them haven’t made it to the final cut (laughs); what you see now is probably 40% of what we shot, so I guess editing was a big challenge.
What meaning has the title for you?
Nicoleta: I think the characters symbolize a certain type of dynamic found in a couple. And they may still be alive today signifies those situations that keep on repeating and the people that make the same mistakes over and over without learning a thing.
Bogdan: That’s a good theory but here’s mine: And they may still be alive today is pretty much how every fairytale ends and after all that lovey-dovey presented in the story, you assume they are happily ever after and… they may still be alive today. And I think the film raises the question – okay, in the end, what it means to live happily ever after? They just found perpetual happiness or have they learned together how to love after that burning fire has died out?
Do you remember what was your favorite fairytale story as a kid?
Nicoleta: I don’t remember to have read too many fairytales when I was little, but I do remember one – Rapunzel. And then there’s Youth Everlasting and Life without End which I have discovered as a grown-up, very poetic and symbolic.
Bogdan: I was into poetry rather than fairytales. I remember Prâslea the Brave and the Golden Apples, where Prâslea meets the Queen of Ants, because of a funny occurrence I had with my grandmother – it happened in one of my visits in the countryside and one day she took me with her at boletus picking and on our way we met with at an old lady, a friend of hers. I sat next to her and after a few minutes, my legs were covered by ants and I realized I was sitting on a hillock, it scared me a lot. The old lady told me I should stay put because ants get off just the way they get on, and my grandma insisted I should listen to her as she is Muma Pădurii (ie – a hag in Romanian folklore, she is an ugly and mischievous or mad old woman living in the forest). So I listened and most of the ants did come down – I remember the fairytale because I had this image of Muma Pădurii and even the Queen of Ants.
The film has an open end, have you ever discussed what happens with them?
Nicoleta: There’s a line at the end that stuck with me – “we are both screwed up, so let’s be screwed up together”, so I figured out that once they find a way past their problems and realize there is no such thing as a perfect couple, they stick together. At least this is how I imagined it – what about you, Bogdan?
Bogdan: I didn’t see it this way. (laughs)
Nicoleta: You don’t want her anymore, she’s crazy.
Bogdan: I don’t think they end up together, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I don’t think their relationship was a failure, it just lasted as long as it had to. They both learned from it.
Nicoleta: Yeah, you might be right and I’m too optimistic about it.
What are the most important qualities you are looking for in a life partner?
Bogdan: You just asked two single people who have no idea (laughs). I’m joking. I think love is something you learn and the most important quality in a partner is their availability to learn with you. And maybe also being a good negotiator – negotiations are unavoidable in a relationship, it starts with small gestures, like where you keep your toothbrush, and ends with more important decisions, like how to have a life together.
Nicoleta: For a long time I asked myself why relationships don’t work and I think it starts with what kind of relationship you have with yourself. I used to look for a partner that would complete me, that would feel when I need something, and would fill that hole inside. Now I believe this is the exact reason why relationships don’t last and the most important thing is to accept your life partner as it is.
What are your expectations regarding your film career? Would you like to keep at it or would you rather go back to being a stage actor?
Nicoleta: Film and theatre are two completely different things. I would love to keep working in the film industry – a film is something that it stays and you can show to your grandchildren someday.
Bogdan: I don’t think it’s one or the other, you can do both. I would like to have more film projects, but I wouldn’t give up theater. I like the energy you feel when you perform in front of an audience.
The movie And they may still be alive today is now in Romanian cinemas.
And they may still be alive today
Tudor Cristian Jurgiu
Nicoleta Hâncu & Bogdan Nechifor
Când Vlad este gelos, Clara este sigură pe ea însăși. Când Clara este entuziastă, Vlad e plictisit. Când Vlad este fericit, Clara este deprimată. Când ea este furioasă, el este calm. Numai când el devine Făt-Frumos, ea devine în sfârşit Prințesa lui. Seduși de ideea unei iubiri perfecte, ca-n filme și cărți, cei doi fac totul ca s-o trăiască pe propria piele. Va rezista relația lor distanței dintre așteptări și realitate?