Interview with Anamaria Marinca

Here’s my interview with Anamaria Marinca, star of Palme d’Or winning 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.

Few people outside of film circles can attest that they know too much of Romanian national cinema. As an industry it is still in its infancy when compared against, say, France or Germany, but over the Noughties a strange thing has happened; Romania has planted its flag in the celluloid and staked a claim on film.

Among the flagships for many critics is Christian Mungiu’s raw and affecting 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days (2007). Such is the power of its storytelling and the maturity of its intelligence, that it beat the likes of the Coens’ No Country For Old Men and Fincher’s masterpiece Zodiac to take home the much coveted Palme d’Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

Set in 1987, two years before the Revolution that would end Romania’s 40 year reign of Ceauşescu’s brand of Communism, the film follows student, Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) as she aides her roommate, Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) in securing a dangerous ‘back-alley’ termination behind the backs of a regime that outlawed abortion twenty years previous.

To say the film is beautiful is to understate the seriousness out of which the concept is born. It is not a beautiful film in the traditional sense, but rather a tender and haunting tale of friendship and sacrifice in a world where choice is a privilege rarely bestowed.

Such was my admiration for the film and the performances that I decided to contact its lead actress, Anamaria Marinca, to request an interview. Marinca, who resides in London, is temporarily posted in Paris, having just finished filming the up-coming feature A Cloud in a Glass of Water (Un nuage dans un verre d’eau) by first-time director, Srinath Samarasinghe.

“I’m very, very excited about it.” She tells me during a Sunday morning telephone conversation, “For me, it’s an unusual film: It has a lot of special effects. It’s a fantasy-detective story told in a very imaginative way.”

A Cloud in a Glass of Water is currently in post-production, but the 32 year old actress has stayed on in France to rehearse for her role as Nina Zarechnaya in a production of Chekhov’s The Seagull. The play is directed by long-time friend, Christian Benedetti, and is set to play at the Theatre Studio in Paris throughout the month of March: A run that she (sincerely) invites me to attend. I ask Anamaria, who is fluent in Romanian, English and French, how different the process is when acting in a foreign tongue:

A Cloud in a Glass of Water was in French. And The Seagull played in French. It’s strange for me to do a Russian play, in French, being Romanian, and living in London, but I’m doing it (laughs).

“I think that even if you are fluent in a certain language, it is a different thing acting in that language. It’s a question of form and meaning. In Romanian I never think of pronunciation or the syntax of the phrase, it all comes naturally. ”

Anamaria Marinca was born in Iaşi, Romania in 1978, where she would later received a degree in Fine Arts at the city’s University. In 2004 she moved to London where she divided her time between TV, film and theatre. Her CV is diverse: Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure one year; a Sarah Kane play another, she has also worked with an array of acclaimed film directors: David Yates, Francis Ford Coppola, Julie Delpy and Oliver Hirschbiegel.

4, 3, 2 is probably a masterpiece, so to argue that Anamaria Marinca’s performance binds all of the elements together is no small thing. But her presence is really something to behold; appearing in almost every scene, she embodies the character with aplomb and a sense of fearlessness that never allows her pretty face to betray the complexity of gestures required to tell such a trenchant tale of one friend’s unconditional love for another.

In spite of the controversy that came from the film, for Marinca 4, 3, 2 was about a politico-spiritual catharsis, a national exorcism of past demons; how the draconian abortion laws had pushed Romania’s daughters to risking their lives: “It took 20 years to have the distance and to be able to transfigure these stories and to make it into art.” But what the filmmakers witnessed when the film began to show all over the world was that for some, the issue wasn’t so much in the past tense: “We hadn’t realized how strong the reaction would be in countries like Italy, Portugal and Mexico; the urgency of the issue. This time the reasons had to do with religion. In the latter countries, there were laws about to be voted on. Interestingly enough, the subject of abortion is always tangent to an ideology… “

As is often the case in matters such as these, 4, 3, 2 was a little too much for the religious faction of society; those incapable of accepting discussions on any issues that they deem black and white, as though discussion itself is paramount to promotion: “The Vatican had a very negative response. But what amazes me is that they never took the film for what it is,” she said, “It’s about friendship; it’s about the freedom of choice.  It’s not pro-abortion and it’s not against abortion, it’s just a fact and a story.  We believe in a cinema that asks the right questions. And that our public is intelligent and free to search to find their own answers.”

Anamaria chooses of her words carefully, for fear of expressing the wrong sentiment in a language that isn’t her first. For a young actress who has forged a career from such weighty subject matter, the need to be clear is understandable. She is very aware of the nature of the conversation, on what may be conceived as being intentionally loaded questions on my part. They aren’t, I am simply trying to make the conversation interesting.  But in spite of any reservations she may have talking to a complete stranger, she is blessed with an endearing honesty throughout.  “[When working] you get close to people in a quite short period of time,” she said, “ You live with a team 24/7 and so it’s compulsory to be open and to collaborate… Things come at a cost and one can often find oneself in a vulnerable position, but that is the nature of the work.”

It is a well known trope that the nature of acting (for the more gifted, at least) are in some sort of constant spiritual deconstruction of the human condition. Usually we assign this to Stanislavskian self-tormenting practices designed to break down the individual and reboot them as beast of existentialism. I have no real idea of Anamaria’s thoughts on ‘method’, but she appears to possess a strong, kind personality that is flecked with a clarity of spirit and an assurance of self:

“I think it’s a privilege for artists in general to make a living of their profession (most of them can’t – especially with the difficult time the world is going through). In a context where nobody finds time to stop for one moment we are given the chance to observe and meditate… in order to  capture , reflect , transfigure and represent  what we see.“

It is clear to me that Anamaria is strangely comfortable with the discomfort that comes with challenging oneself, with taking risks and trying new things. It would appear that her brand of moxie is paying off: She has won several awards at various international film festivals for her part in 4, 3, 2, received a BAFTA in 2005 for her role as Elena Visinescu in David Yates TV movie Sex Traffic, and has been named as one of European films’ Shooting Stars by the European Film Promotion Board. Not to mention universal praise from a gamut of industry critics.

But in spite of the accolades, she is grounded very much in the love of art. Not just in an abstract poetic sense, but in terms of tangible knowledge. When I bring up the significance of the Romanian New Wave movement, she reels off films faster than I can write them down.  Her displays a constant admiration for all who give their time in service to the craft of filmmaking, and I wondered whether she, herself, was considering a shift in direction: “I think we change, evolve in certain directions. Three years ago if you had asked me the same question, I’d have said, ‘I’ve never thought about it’. But now it’s another story, now I do think about it. I’m not sure if this desire will ever become a reality, but I just hope that I’ll see the signs and that I grasp the opportunity when it comes.”

Throughout the interview Anamaria is articulate and friendly, allowing the interview to run to over an hour on what is her only day off. The hardest thing is deciphering the words, choosing the best way to present someone who you have never met and only spoken to for a short time. And that is a strange and dangerous thing to try to do. But there is a definite sense that parts of the depth of her identity and understanding of all things has been nurtured by those with whom she has engaged with on a creative level: “I have had people in my life that have inspired me and have been very generous with their time and with their knowledge, and I can’t ever thank them. The best I can do is try and do a good job on the stage or on set. And pass whatever I learned and understood about this profession to my younger friends…” Judging from her performances, Anamaria Marinca has already returned the favour.

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About craig shaw
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