About Metronom, with Mara Bugarin & Șerban Lazarovici

8 November, 2022

I was born in January 1994. I’ve only known communism through my parents’ and grandparents’ stories. My mother told me about the hardships and struggles of those times but has never really let out her traumas. That also goes for my father, a former political prisoner. I grew up in a safe and peaceful environment and only in the last couple of years – once I plunged further into adulthood and all sorts of questions about life and the past began to arise in my mind – did I begin to truly understand how lucky I am. Theater plays, books (by Gabriela Adameșteanu, Ana-Maria Sandu, and Ioana Pârvulescu, among others) and films played a major role in this process. In my view, Metronom is one of the most representative titles in this sense. It showed me another perspective, one to which I feel much closer, given my age. I instantly felt the urge to call my parents and ask them about their high school years – which for me were the best, full of music, parties and new friends. And then it hit me. I never really wondered what our parents’ teenage years were like. I came back from Cannes thinking that this film should be seen by as many young people born after 1990 as possible and that I should do something about it. Hoping that this interview will be of help, I invite you to meet Mara Bugarin and Şerban Lazarovici, the two protagonists of the film, who, even though in their early 20s, show a lot of empathy and wisdom.

What does freedom mean to you?

Şerban: We’ve been asked that quite often and each time I find it difficult to give the most appropriate answer; I don’t think I can define it, we were born having freedom and we are often told that we should be more grateful for it. 

Mara: So far I have defined freedom only in my mind. I haven’t been asked that in other interviews, only at TIFF Talks, and I’ve approached from a social-political point of view, explaining what rights and obligations mean and how I grasp them at 21. Now I tend to define freedom in a more personal way and I think it’s part of me; I censor myself and often restrict my freedom, for various reasons – from behavioral norms that I feel I have to meet to the prejudices we’re facing nowadays. Speaking of the new Films in Frame print issue, which talks about the role of women – as a woman, I’m clearly trying to fit into some standards and I realise that I can never be truly free, not even in my personal space. As if there’s always someone watching me. I think for me freedom is a form of self-acceptance, of being at peace with yourself.

But are you aware of the freedom we have? Can you appreciate it, whether you understand it or not?

Mara: I think we take it for granted, we don’t know what it’s like not be able to do what you want to do.

Şerban: It’s hard for me to be aware of it in my everyday life. I can’t really empathize with the hardships our parents endured during communism.

Mara: There are also moments when it hits me, for example when I go to slum areas of the city or poor regions of the country, and I realise that there are so many worlds within the same country or the same city, which I had no idea about because I literally had everything growing up.

Mara Bugarin photographed by Sabina Costinel. Styling byRuxandra Marin

For you, Mara, it’s your first role in a film, but you’ve been performing on stage since you were 10 years old, you were raised in an artistic environment and you have a sister who is also a very talented actress. Would you say you grew up feeling like you had the freedom  to do whatever you wanted in life?

Yes, up to a point. People keep asking us how come we turned out like that – our parents supported us to dream big and think outside the box. We recently had a talk about that and they confessed they would’ve liked to raise us perhaps a bit more conventionally, so we wouldn’t be so critical of the reality around us and have such high goals. The moment you take reality apart piece by piece, you discover that it’s also rotten, which can be desolating. And I was hopeful that I could save or solve anything. For a long time, I thought I lived in a world where the possibilities were limitless. That was until I came face to face with real life and realized I’m not Robin Hood , that it’s more difficult to change things than I thought as a child.

Tell me a bit about how you both came to work on Metronom.

Şerban: I went to an audition last year and got the part. Most of the cast is young, we are students, so we were talking among ourselves – who got the part, who didn’t, etc. All my colleagues already had costume fittings, they signed their contracts, but not me. It had been weeks and I was getting impatient so I called the casting director who promised that someone would soon get in touch with me. A few days later I got an email informing me that my scene was dropped. I was upset, but somehow, I felt it wasn’t over yet. About two weeks later, they contacted me one evening and told me there was a problem with the lead roles and that I should come the next morning for an audition. The next morning, I got out of the taxi at the same time as Mara and that was it (laughs).

Photo by Sabina Costinel

Mara: I had auditioned for another film, it was for the main role. A 14-year-old girl, but they told me I couldn’t pass as 14 after seeing the close-ups. So I just moved on. Soon after, I was called one evening for Metronom. I was happy when they told me I would play a 17-year-old girl (and not 14 – she laughs). I was surprised to find out the shooting was starting in five days. I remember Alex telling us during the audition that Sorin [i.e. Şerban’s character in Metronom] is about to leave and that they haven’t got the time to live their love. I thought about how to use this information and after a few takes I kissed Şerban. Alex told us that this gesture convinced him. We had chemistry, which is all about chance, and we were very comfortable with one another.

Şerban: It was a long audition, about two and a half hours. I walked into a vintage apartment but I didn’t know that was the set. We auditioned with Alex and Tudor and had several love and fight scenes. We knew each other from film school, but not very well.

So you didn’t have any time for rehearsals, or to get to know your characters or the team. How was the collaboration with Alexandru Belc? What kind of director is he?

Mara: You could say I lived on the set for a month. I remember many nights with Alex just talking about Ana’s journey. We were both discovering her at the same time, which I thought was very cool. He didn’t come with preconceived ideas about the character. He wanted to understand what would change in her in each situation. One of us would come up with an idea and then we would discuss it – for example, I told him I didn’t think Ana would cry in front of the Securitate. Obviously, the final decision was up to Alex, but it was collaborative work, much of the text was rewritten on set. Alex was open to receiving feedback from me, Tudor [i.e. the director of photography], Şerban, Alexandra [i.e. Botau, the script supervisor], and Adriana [i.e. the 1st AD]. He understood that five minds work much better than one.

Şerban: We spent one of the last nights of shooting locked in a room for hours, where we would shoot the second love scene, which didn’t have a form yet. We came up with the lines on the spot and it all started from “what would you say now?” and “what would you answer?”.

Mara: It was a very special night. We got a bottle of wine and started talking about our first sexual experiences. Alex took things from our stories and put them into our characters. You’d think he would give us some models to follow, but he didn’t think people felt any different back then.

Șerban Lazarovici & Mara Bugarin, photographed by Sabina Costinel. Styling by Ruxandra Marina

I think the film is special because it’s authentic – it portrays what it was like to be a teenager during communism, something you don’t see in other Romanian films that approach the same era.

Şerban: At the end of various screenings around the country, people from the audience stood up and told us about their experiences from that time, they empathized with the story in the film. It was quite emotional. I think it’s important this film reaches as many people as possible.

Mara: I didn’t expect the film to have a therapeutic effect on the audience, to make them tell us stories lived by them during Communism. At TIFF, it was the first time we screened the film to a Romanian audience. Among the spectators there were ladies in their seventies who stood up and shared in such a beautiful way how they relate to our characters. As for the younger audience, many consume cinema made before the 2000s – Metronom has an atmosphere that you can find in the movies we grew up with, and Ana is a symbol of that generation – in terms of appearance, behavior, and so on.

Ana is the main character, whom you play. What did you struggle with the most while working on this character?

It took me a while to understand that you can feel a lot of things, but without actually externalizing those feelings. I could empathize and identify with Ana, but I would have dissimulated more than her. Ana was a lost and quiet girl. As regards the political system of that time, I’ve liked history since I was little and grew up in a family that encouraged us to develop a strong critical and civic spirit, so from this point of view, it was easy for me to understand Ana, who didn’t want to give in to the system.

I saw the film at Cannes and felt the need to call my mother right after the screening; I wanted her to tell me about her teenage years. Did this film make you more curious to learn about those years, read about communism, or talk to your parents about that time?

Mara: My mom told me that my grandmother was under investigation for a month; she had been accused of something she was not guilty of and she didn’t want to say what they asked her to, since it wasn’t true. Then my father told me that my great-grandfather died in a communist prison. It came as a shock. My grandmother is alive and I’m close with her. I can’t fathom what happened to her. I asked my mother how she now relates to that event and to the fact that her mother disappeared for a month. She told me that that was normal back then. You didn’t want to think the worst because it wasn’t the case, most of the time. I believe we lack the resilience and strength they had then.

Şerban: I had such conversations with my family a few years ago, when I starred in Uppercase Print (dir. Radu Jude), where my character is the exact opposite of the one I’m playing in Metronom. I was the boy who stood up to the Securitate. I’m from Botoșani, where my character is from as well, and one day I was walking with my grandfather and he suddenly pointed to a man on the street, “look, that man worked for the Securitate when Mugur [i.e. Şerban’s character in Uppercase Print] was investigated”. I couldn’t believe that right there in front of me was this man who 30 years ago probably caused harm to some people. 

Mara: About that, I’ve recently seen a play by Carmen Lidia Vidu – based on the official transcript of the discussion between Ceaușescu and the engineers who were consolidating the buildings affected by the 1977 earthquake (Cutremurul Neștiut by Carmen Lidia Vidu). At the end of the play, Andrei Ursu talked about his father, who was killed by the regime because of some letter he sent to Free Europe radio station. And I was talking to my folks how no one knows the man who assaulted him, his name and identity are still unknown, he probably got away with it and, without a doubt, he was not the only one involved. I find that revolting and frightening. It is violent behavior that is still perpetuated today.

Șerban Lazarovici, photographed by Sabina Costinel. Styling by Ruxandra Marin

Before working on Metronom, learning about how people lived back then was only out of curiosity, but from the moment I got the part, it became a job. I wanted to know everything. I think the gestures and reactions we have today betray our unfamiliarity with that era. It was important to discover how rigid the system was, as well as the rough language that was used. (Șerban Lazarovici)


What about your Cannes experience? I’m curious to know how you perceived that moment.

Şerban: Right before going on stage, I was sitting on a balcony from where I could see all the people climbing the steps of the cinema, eager to watch our film. That was the most beautiful moment for me. I felt very proud of our achievement as a team. Then it was the 7-minute standing ovation we got at the end of the screening. It’s a feeling that stays with you forever.

Mara: Șerban spoke so beautifully. What else could I say? (laughs) 

For me, the most emotional moment was when I found out the film was selected at Cannes. When I got to Cannes, I was honestly hoping to see more films; it turns out you don’t have much time when you have a film in the programme. The photo call was rather an odd experience – it looks very posh from the outside, but actually, there are 60 photographers yelling at you to look at them. They told us to look from left to right and move our eyes slowly, but when it’s 60 people screaming from all sides, it’s just impossible. The red carpet is a true spectacle and if you’re new to it, it looks like you just fell out of the sky.

Şerban: We had another red carpet moment, too. It was at the screening of Elvis, I was right next to the members of Måneskin, and Tom Hanks was behind us. And about the screening of our film, me and Mara Vicol were seeing the film for the first time, in a room with 1.000 more people, which was a pretty intense experience. I was amazed by how the film looked, I was very impressed with Tudor’s work.

Mara: I was impressed by the quality of the screening room. I had seen a version of the film when it was still in post-production – the sound wasn’t finished, the color grading wasn’t done yet – on the projector in my apartment, so not in the best conditions, but I knew the narrative. And during the screening at Cannes, I constantly felt the need to whisper to Alex, but no chance of that. Alex was very serious and I was very nervous and overexcited and needed to talk every time I saw myself on screen. Like football commentators. I was restless, I couldn’t properly watch the film from start to end. I was scared that it might not be well received, especially since I had heard that you can also be booed at Cannes. And if so, it would have also been my fault since I played the main role. But when I saw everyone standing up, clapping and looking at us with admiration, and then all of us hugging each other – I think that was the best moment. I left the festival thinking that this is the standard to which I should strive, that I would like to have this experience again.

Photos by Sabina Costinel. Styling by Ruxandra Marin

What would the love story between your characters look like today? Would it have survived?

Mara: No. (laughs)

Şerban: Yes and no. But I’d say yes.

Mara: Seriously, let’s think about it. Sorin goes to Cambridge and doesn’t tell Ana that he has applied to college. So maybe…

Şerban: But there is Skype, Facetime, etc.

Mara: I think we have too much freedom now and it’s easy for us to throw away a relationship. We deny the concept of ​​monogamy, of a relationship that goes through ups and downs but survives in the end. Our generation quits at the first bump in the road. So I can’t be an idealist. 

Şerban: It’s a point of view. A very pragmatic one. I think that what the film captures so beautifully about their relationship can be easily translated into our days. Without a doubt, they would have encountered problems even today. Still, I think they would have done everything in their power to stay together.

Șerban Lazarovici & Mara Bugarin, photographed by Sabina Costinel. Styling by Ruxandra Marin

Metronom can be watched this fall in all Romanian cinemas.
Many thanks to Lokal for hosting us and Op Shop – Vintage Clothing Store.


Director/ Screenwriter






Romania, the autumn of the year 1972. Ana, a 17 year-old teenager, finds out that her boyfriend will flee the country for good in a few days. The two lovers decide to spend their last days together.

Film producer and founder of ADFR, she dreamed since she was little of having a magazine one day. Alongside her job as editor-in-chief, she writes the interview of the month. She loves animals, jazz music and films festivals.