Andrei Cretulescu: I find the world cruel and violent and those lenses get darker as the days go by
I have never met Andrei Cretulescu in person and I must admit I have wanted that since I saw his first film, Bad Penny. I like and appreciate people that are different, that don’t follow any beaten path and have the courage to try new ones. I believe Andrei, as a director, is one of those rebellious with different ideas and lots of excitement to share them with the world. His films are dark, sometimes tragic, but they are mysterious and always interesting. After years of exploring the world of short films and gaining experience, Cretulescu finally launched his debut feature film – Charleston, a story about love in its absence and nevertheless about masculinity and friendship. Starring Radu Iacoban and Serban Pavlu, Charleston can be seen in cinemas in Romania and it is surely a film not to be missed.
Our interview this month is with Andrei Cretulescu, director of Ramona – winner short film at Cannes, and Charleston – his first feature film. A candid interview about the job that chose him, the things that intrigues him and the story behind Charleston.
What does it mean to you being a film director and what does it offer you?
In this very moment it means everything. I have the chance to do what I like, when I want and how I like it.
What does intrigue you when you’re choosing a new film subject?
They choose me, rather than the other way around. People intrigue me: why they do a thing and how, what they are saying and how; when they are thinking, do they also feel, does anyone else feels too; has anyone still has time, boundaries, humanity and so on…
I have read in a recent interview for Scena 9 that this whole directing approach started totally random. When have you surprised yourself for the first time?
Totally, there was nothing planned. After I learned production while I was working at HBO Romania, I was convinced that was my future. I got the chance once to direct a short film – Bad Penny, my first one and after two extremely cold nights and the last sip of an old whiskey bottle, I said to myself I never want to do anything else in my life. And I meant movies, not drinking whiskey 🙂
Does your experience as a film critic helps you when you’re directing a new film?
A lot. I had my first film review published in 1995 and I feel that today, 23 years later I do the same thing, which is learning cinema.
You did quite a lot of shot films before Charleston, your debut in feature film. Why is that?
This wasn’t planned either. Every new short film was born from the previous one. It was like going to an express cinema school. After all, I have no film studies whatsoever, but I have some extremely talented people around my, behind and in front of the camera, so I guess I’m pretty lucky.
Most of your films have violence. We kind of get used with you and your style, everytime a new film by Cretulescu launches, it has to be a little bloody. It seems you see the world through dark lenses. Why?
Just a little bloody? Ha! That’s not good enough. It’s true, I find the world cruel and violent and those lenses get darker as the days go by. It’s what the world tells me, what I see around me.
I was totally surprised by Charleston. First half of the film I kept wondering who will kill whom, even though Ioana had a tragic death in the first few minutes of the film and she remained the single one to die. What’s the story behind the story, how did things unfold with this one?
Ioana is not the only one dying in the film. My old and beloved Bucharest is also dying bit by bit, in the film and in real life. The script is based on the single fear that really terrifies me: the idea of losing the one I love. It wasn’t easy but I managed to direct the film exactly in the way I wanted, and it’s a film dedicated to my mother.
I would say Charleston does not resemble any other film in our cinema, so far. It is a drama with humorous notes, that uses music as a main element, and it’s very detailed-oriented. It seems that this attention for details is your obsession. Is there a director or film that inspired you in your creative process?
Yes, I am obsessed with details, colours, symmetry, shadows, gestures and glances. I am inspired by worldwide cinema, which influences me since I was six years old. There are various references, from Michael Powel to Martin Brest, from Douglas Sirk to Elaine May, and of course Billy Wilder and Leos Carax.
Is there any scene in the film which wasn’t in the script?
There are two scenes: the bad synchronised dance, which breaks the film in two pieces, and night walk in Carol Park, a clin d’oeil to “Ramona” short film.
I have noticed you enjoy working with the same actors. However, Charleston brings a new name in a leading role – Radu Iacoban. How did you connect with Radu?
I haven’t worked before with neither Victor Rebengiuc, Ana Ciontea, Adrian Titieni, Gabriela Popescu or Ifrim brothers, but they have secondary roles. With Radu I share a friendship for some time now, I saw his plays, analysed him in detail – but please don’t tell, and when the timing was right, I gave him the script and waited for his reaction. He had exactly the reaction I hoped for and I was very happy about it.
What type of director are you: do you rehearse for a long time with the actors, following the script, or do you prefer the improvisation?
We have a lot of rehearsals, but we don’t have any reason to exaggerate. Usually, the script is followed word by word. In Charleston, there are three words which are not written by me, but I am glad they exist.
How did you feel at Charleston’s premiere, watching the film in a cinema with 800 people?
What are your future plans?
This autumn we will shoot a two character short film, and we are also searching for funds for the new feature film: a retro film, just like Charleston, about ten friends who are trapped in a cabin in the mountains during a snow storm. And yes, there will be blood.