article img

Cristian Mungiu | L'immagine e la parola

Filmexplorer had the chance to meet Cristian Mungiu and discuss with him about his filmmaking, his methodology, the role of the screenplay, and his most recent movie «Bacalaureat».

[…] We could say that the editing work has to pass through the reality itself, which must be meticulously constructed in advance. Mungiu gives up on manipulating the audience, as he is manipulating the reality that he is filming instead.

[…] Through a masterful control of time, associative editing, the use of partial information, an intelligent use of elliptical dramaturgy, his movies move on with the force of necessity, and so the stories flow under the pressure of an internal necessity.

Cristian Mungiu’s Masterclass in Locarno, which was lead with the help of Carlo Chatrian, was one of the highlights of the 2017 edition of «L’immagine e la parola». The Rumanian author energetically explained in great detail his process of filmmaking, his methodology, his techniques and tricks. Not only did his didactic generosity strike us, but his clarity and precision too: Mungiu gives the impression of a person who devotes himself entirely to film, and thus concerns himself with the protection of his artistic freedom (he regularly produces all of his movies himself) but also with his goal to please and astonish the audience.

Among the many useful suggestions he has given us, I want to stress the central theme of searching for the right timing and rhythm in a film, even before one starts the construction of storytelling. Actually, the writing process itself is used by him to control the timeline of the film, for the goal of his script is simply to describe the point of view of the camera, i.e. of the audience. His methodology is rigorous and systematic, and punctuated by many rules, which depend simply on one main principle: the credibility of the story that is told. To get this, the most important decision the director has to make is that of the major themes that will be at the heart of the film, therefore it concerns one’s motivation to approach them and an in-depth knowledge of them.

The detailed preparation of the story and set, along with his general need to control all aspects of the film, could shock us if we didn’t understand the conventions he shares with other filmmakers of the so-called “Rumanian nouvelle vague”. In order to accomplish a realist credo, they eliminate any extra-diegetic music (to be substituted with a highly accurate sound-design in post-production) and the classical découpage technique. In this way, they largely rely on the use of plan-séquences, or long takes. We could say that the editing work has to pass through the reality itself, which must be meticulously constructed in advance. Mungiu gives up on manipulating the audience, as he is manipulating the reality that he is filming instead. In this sense, his aesthetic seems to be faithful to two main tenets of modern representation, delusion and mimesis, and can thus be labeled a classical aesthetic.

The strongest formal aspect of his filmmaking that I consider the essential mark of his style is the impressive consequentiality between the images and stories. Through a masterful control of time, associative editing, the use of partial information, an intelligent use of elliptical dramaturgy, his movies move on with the force of necessity, and so the stories flow under the pressure of an internal necessity. Of course, consequentiality does not mean predictability. On the contrary: the opposite is true, as it is a feature that is always discovered a posteriori; one cannot predict the scene that will follow, but only have a sense of the need for something that is coming, without knowing exactly what.

Through this narrative coherence, a sense of inevitability characterizes his stories; and, as is particularly clear in his most recent film Bacalaureat (see our review), this inevitability becomes a theme of its own. In this wonderful story, a seemingly righteous father learns to make compromises in order to ensure that his daughter can avoid a society made of compromises. In this seemingly contradictory destiny, the compromise that is at times corruption or betrayal, exchange or even friendship, emerges as an unavoidable reality. Also unavoidable is the repetition of the dreams and errors of the younger generation despite their parents’ efforts to introduce change. I wonder whether, behind this fascination for the category of necessity, there is something at work that Eugène Ionescu stigmatised in his play Victimes du devoir: the conformism, as the secret drive of what appears to be a sense of duty. Fatalism, duty, necessity, conformism: a sensitive cocktail for Rumanians, but they are not alone.

Text: Giuseppe Di Salvatore | Audio/Video: Ruth Baettig
First published: March 15, 2017

Explore more