(Cineuropa) Interview with Marian Crişan - Director of The Campaign
By Stefan Dobroiu
We spoke to Marian Crişan, the Romanian director whose fourth feature, The Campaign, has just world-premiered at the Moscow International Film Festival
Ten years after he explored Europe’s peculiar reaction to the refugee crisis in Morgen [+], Marian Crişan looks at another social issue – corruption and politicians’ inability to truly cater to their voters’ needs – from the point of view of a small provincial town in The Campaign [+]. Here is what the director has to say about the challenges of his fourth feature, which has just world-premiered at the Moscow International Film Festival, and about what is currently happening in the Romanian film industry.
Cineuropa: For this movie, you go back to your native town of Salonta, where you shot Morgen more than a decade ago. What do you like about the place?
Marian Crişan: When I develop a screenplay, I always start with things I am curious about, or individuals or destinies I want to talk about. I like writing characters inspired by the people I am closest to – in this instance, the people of Salonta. My connection with the place is rather emotional or nostalgic. The geography is another thing I love about Salonta, as it’s a little border town surrounded by vast fields that disappear off into the horizon. It’s a place where illegal immigrants pass the border on their way to the West and where a politician from Bucharest can hide.
The film’s world premiere is happening in sync with local and parliamentary elections in Romania. Would you say that the power of decision makers is greater in small towns?
The absurdity in The Campaign is mainly generated by the presence of a high-profile politician in a small provincial town. We have this setting which is governed by a slow rhythm and a certain inertia, a place where nothing ever happens, and this place somehow engulfs the politician. A different type of time rules here, a time that flows differently. The politician starts to let himself be influenced by this particular pace, the rhythm of the Transylvanian tractor driver who never seems to be in a hurry. What I wanted to do was to observe how the politician starts to ingratiate himself to the voters and corrupt the locals.
You wrote the script with Gabriel Andronache. How did the screenplay come about?
The screenplay is based on Gabriel’s novel Ich bin ein Berliner, which at some point we wanted to adapt into a feature. What we did is not an adaptation per se; we started writing a screenplay based on a chapter of the book, where the story covers some provincial elections. I found this context very intriguing, and I suggested we write a story starting from a very simple premise: a Moldovan [the Romanian region and not Romania’s neighbouring country] politician in the Romanian Parliament arrives in a Transylvanian town during his campaign for the elections. We wrote the first draft together, and then Gabriel covered the lines of the Moldovan politician and I was in charge of the lines of the Transylvanian tractor driver.
Your protagonist makes a lot of promises in the film. How would you comment on the idea of a politician’s promises in the context of the current situation in the Romanian film industry? I am thinking especially about the lack of state support during the pandemic and the still-ineffective cash rebate scheme…
I think the cinema law needs to be improved very soon. We need to focus on how Romanian films get financed. I hope Romanian filmmakers will be the beneficiaries of these much-needed changes. At the same time, the support that should come from the authorities should be much more than just promises: we need tangible support that should go to production companies, filmmakers, and the creative and technical professionals who produce Romanian films. I am convinced that all production companies, be they big or small, are affected by this crisis, not only those working for foreign productions. We also need to adapt to what is already happening on the distribution market.
You have announced the film’s domestic release for this autumn. Is this still on, as we all know that cinemas in any Romanian town can potentially be closed by the authorities as soon as the number of cases grows?
Unfortunately, our release plans are now compromised. We hope to release the film in cinemas as soon as possible. I am not at liberty to discuss the measures taken by the authorities, but it is obvious that things do not look too good for film exhibition in the near future.
Are you working on a new feature?
We have started to prepare for a new film that has already received support from the Romanian National Film Center. It is being produced by my production company, Rova Film, and its title is The Servant. It is different from anything I have done so far as a filmmaker. It is the story of a boy who lives somewhere in the mountains and who struggles to save his family’s horses on the cusp of the Soviet invasion in 1944. We hope to complete the financing over the next few months and to start the shoot next summer.