160213_aj_10774_IMG_FIX_1200x800Having won the Golden Bear at Berlin Film Festival – and has since been put forward as Romania’s submission for the Academy Awards, Child’s Pose is certainly a film that demands much attention, and we had the great pleasure of speaking to the director Calin Peter Netzer.

The film, which is out in cinemas on November 1 – tells the story of a complex, dysfunctional relationship between Cornelia (Luminita Gheorghiu) and her son Barbu (Bogdan Dumitrache) that comes to a head when the latter kills a young boy in a car accident. Peter Netzer discusses his decision to leave the aforementioned crash out of the movie, his delight at winning the Golden Bear, and the current state of the Romanian film industry…

The film is based around this one pivotal moment – the car crash. Yet we don’t see it, I was wondering about your decision to leave that out of the film?
It was very important to us from the beginning not to show the crash because the whole film is from Cornelia’s perspective, and it was important to be with her in every moment. So when she heard about the crash we are with her, not at the site. Also in the ending, in the very last scene, we see what Cornelia sees. It was clear from the beginning that we stay with her in every scene and the whole film is seen through her eyes.

So why did you make this her story? Because it could easily have been Barbu’s story as well.
Yeah because she’s a more dynamic character, she could carry the drama easier than Barbu. After the accident he was shaken and it was more difficult. The character of the mother is more interesting for us, right from the beginning.

Luminita Gheorghiu who plays Cornelia is quite a big star in Romania – you must have been thrilled to get her on board?
Yeah when we wrote the script, we thought of her from the beginning. The problem was, although Luminita is such a good actress and well-known in Romania, whether she can play that high-society lady, because until then she only played parts of lower social classes, so it was quite difficult to convince her she could make it – she was a bit afraid of that.

The dialogue is so naturalistic too – was there any room for improvisation?
It was almost 100% what was in the script. There were moments of improvisation, but only very few. We tried to shoot some more, but they didn’t make it into the film. We worked very hard on the dialogue to be as good as it can get, and be as realistic as possible.

The camerawork is very shaky and handheld, was that to enhance the naturalistic elements as well?
Yes, that was the main point. But also the budget was very low and we had to shoot it in 30 days, so we decided to shoot it with two digital cameras and as I said before, the story is quite personal and I’m a control freak and normally I want to control everything, but this time I wanted to leave the cameraman the freedom to tell this story like they’re involved in the story, that’s why the camera is always very close to the characters. That was an exercise for me, to lose control in that way. Anyway, we shot as much as we could because we only had 30 days and we worked really hard, 14 or 15 hour days so at the end we had a lot of material and I was a little bit afraid and confused because when you shoot like this, you don’t have the editing in your head.

It must have been quite a challenge to get this all finished in just 30 days?
Yeah, but we prepared it as well as we could. That’s why we didn’t have much time for improvisation.

Well it must have worked – because the film of course won the Golden Bear in Berlin. Congratulations on that – it’s an incredible achievement. How important do you think this accolade will be for your future – to help with the funding, and having the creative licence to do what you want to do?
I don’t know because I haven’t had a project since! But I imagine it will be much easier than before, but the problem is actually in Romania where finding funding is difficult, with the CNC and state funding. That’s where you get your money for making films but they have about half the budget they had two or three years ago and that’s a problem. It means we can’t make any co-productions, because if you only get two or three hundred thousand euros from the CNC then if you make a co-production with France or Germany for example, you only get another two or three hundred thousand, and it just isn’t enough of a budget.

childs-pose-003It must very frustrating for you – because Romanian cinema is really blossoming at the moment.
Yeah it is. After the Berlin film Festival we had some talks with politicians and they promised us they’d do something to change the rules and allow us more funding, but nothing has happened yet. But we’re still hoping.

We’re calling it a ‘new wave’ – what with this and Beyond the Hills to name just two– are you aware that this is an exciting time for the Romanian film industry?
Yeah we are, but there are problems in Romania with art house films. Even with commercial films, there are very few commercial films made, so very few films are actually made because there are real problems from cinemas. People are not going often enough and if they do go, they go to multiplexes to see Hollywood films and so on. We were lucky with Child’s Pose because it came out straight after Berlin so it had this publicity, and it’s still in cinemas now and we’re up to €120, 000 which is a lot of money for Romania – it’s like the most amount in the past 10 or 12 years.

So by winning the Golden Bear and being Romania’s submission for next year’s Oscars – do you feel a pressure on you for your next project?
Of course, but I don’t know if I’m happy or not, it’s a pressure after all [laughs]. In a way maybe it’s a good, but in another way it’s just a pressure, and you start to think twice about what your next project will be and if it’s right. Should I maybe do something else in another country? Maybe that’s the next step.

Could you ever see yourself making a movie outside of Romania then?
Yeah I’d like to, but I don’t know if I’d integrate into another system, it depends on what country. The United States, for example, is another world.

So what’s next up for you?
I don’t have anything down on paper yet. I have something in my mind but it’s not very clear and I’m still travelling now and promoting Child’s Pose across different countries, but after this I will stop and then try and write something.

Travelling the world with your movie must be one of the perks of being a filmmaker?
Yes it is, but it’s tiring. When you’re travelling with the same film you’re stuck with it and you have the same questions asked, and the same interviews… But the festival circuit is not necessarily the problem, the problem is going to countries to promote your film ahead of its release. That’s taking a lot of work, and a lot of time.

Child’s Pose is releases on November 1st, and you can read our review here.