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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Review: The Social Network

The Social Network (12) 121 mins

Dir. David Fincher

Cast. Jesse Eisenberg,Andrew Garfield, Rooney Mara, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer.

Screenplay. Aaron Sorkin

5 stars

REVIEW

Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) is sat in a busy Harvard bar in the autumn of 2003. Positioned opposite him is the delectable Erica (Rooney Mara) who is just about to dump him, but not before a conceited verbal joust ensues concerning the nature and importance of the university’s elite ‘Final Clubs’ and their ability to, in Zuckerberg’s words, “lead to a better life.”

Having had her fill, Erica gifts a few stinging words to our protagonist: “You’re going to go through life thinking that girls don’t like you because you’re a geek… that won’t be true. It’ll be because you’re an asshole.”  She then leaves. The scene, perhaps the best in the film, is expertly shot, wonderfully acted and masterfully edited.

Two things became apparent to me when I heard that David Fincher was directing a “Facebook movie.”  Firstly: if Fincher wasn’t directing it, I wouldn’t care a lick at all. And secondly: even though he was, I was still quietly unoptimistic about the whole thing.

As it turns out, there was no reason to worry, because The Social Network has turned out to be a genuinely outstanding piece of filmmaking that proves that Fincher knows what he’s doing in any genre.

Based upon the not-so-flattering book by Ben Mezrich, The Accidental Billionaires, The Social Network charts the rise and subsequent legal battles that enveloped the internet phenomenon that is Facebook.com, and social enigma that is co-founder, Mark Zuckerberg.

The crux of The Social Network’s portrayal of Zuckerberg is one that couples a painful social ineptitude with academic genius.  Not exactly a rare sight in film, agreed, but therein lies the rub: the man who will co-create the most ubiquitous social networking tool in history, fails miserably in the basic skills required to connect with those around him in any meaningful way.

In the spirit of heartache and revenge, Zuckerberg creates a program that allows his Harvard contingent to rate on the attractiveness of their female peers. And when said program crashes the Harvard server, he realises the potential of a more personalised online social experience. Thus, ‘The Facebook’ is invented. Though, as you may guess, the tale has nothing to do with money or greed or power – at least not for Zuckerberg- it has to do with impressing a certain, soon-to-be dragon tattooed, girl.

The ensemble cast all perform admirably under what were no doubt difficult and trying circumstances imposed by Fincher.  Jesse Eisenberg plays Zuckerberg with a careful balance of sardonic wit and near autistic characteristics, and although not considered as handsome as some of the director’s previous leading men, nevertheless he holds the screen with ease. Rooney Mara boast beauty and confidence as the girl that got away – two traits she’ll need to keep with her if she’s to pull off the lead in Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo remake, currently filming in Sweden.

The part of the best friend, Eduardo Saverin, went to British-American actor Andrew Garfield who exudes a lost-little boy charm from start to finish. Justin Timberlake depicts the mildly Machiavellian Napster hero Sean Parker: all smooth-talking and rock-star arrogance. But much of the films humour is provided by the Winklevoss brothers.  Actor Armie Hammer’s performance in both roles, aided by some seamless cutting and pasting, apparently delighted their real life counter parts.

Of course many of the tales that make up the film are factually inaccurate, which is unusual for the normally pedantic Fincher, but none of that really matters here. Aaron Sorkin’s script is impeccable from start to finish and we never feel as though the 49-year-old writer, famous for the likes of the West Wing and A Few Good Men, is out of his depth with these Harvard kids.

Fincher makes the camera live and breathe in the way he always has, and each frame pulses with shades of Fight Club and Zodiac; there is no sense that this feature is in any way filler in his CV. The 48-year-old director has an unrivalled gift for technically masterful storytelling and character complexity that few contemporary American filmmakers can match.

It is a moody and stylish film that manages to transcend its seemingly glib subject matter and present an intriguing and complex view of the origins of one of the most significant social developments of a generation.

The only real negative critique is that in the rush of it all, I was left wanting more, which in retrospect may not be a bad thing anyway… The first rule of show business is: always keep them wanting more.

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