Bogdan George Apetri • Director of Miracle
“As a filmmaker, you never need to go wide; you need to go deep”
- VENICE 2021: The writer-director talks about his new film, which explores the trials and tribulations of two very different characters, a nun and a police inspector
After releasing his second feature, Unidentified [+see also:
film profile], in 2020, New York-based Romanian director Bogdan George Apetri needed only one year to deliver the Venice Orizzonti-screened Miracle [+see also:
interview: Bogdan George Apetri
film profile], the second part of a trilogy set in his home town. Here is what the director has to say about sequels, genres and how to be objective in cinema.
Cineuropa: Why do you think there are so few genre films in Romanian cinema?
Bogdan George Apetri: As I have been living in the United States for 20 years now, it is a bit difficult to answer a question about Romanian cinema, because I am not involved that much. I think certain genres do not match up well with the Romanian reality – horror, film noir or mafia movies, for example. Of course, one can try to tackle one of these genres in Romania, but it will definitely be a mash-up. I think directors who choose not to do that are actually smart because they know they cannot impose a genre on the Romanian reality. Perhaps people will think Miracle is a thriller, but I never start a film by thinking about its genre; I start with what the story tells me it needs. I start with the characters, and then I try to find the best approach to tell that story. In my opinion, Miracle doesn’t belong to a particular genre. Even if some may label it as a thriller, it’s not a genre movie. The same goes for my previous films, Unidentified and Outbound [+see also:
interview: Ana Ularu
Actually, Unidentified and Miracle share a number of characters. Why this decision?
As a filmmaker, you never need to go wide; you need to go deep, and you need to investigate. In this case, I started with the location; I didn’t even have any idea about what the film was going to be. I told myself it would be interesting to start with a small town and investigate it, its people and their stories in a deeper way. I was very attracted to this idea of a trilogy, where the main characters in one film become supporting characters in the next. I think I got this idea from Balzac because he used to do that in his novels. Why not use that idea for a trilogy? And it is not a TV show; the stories are separate, and the films can be enjoyed separately, but they have interesting connections between them. For example, in Miracle, you can see the protagonist of Unidentified working in the same police station, and he is fine. As Unidentified had kind of an open ending, in Miracle, that story gets closure. I think it will be an interesting experience for the audience, too.
How was it to go back to your home town to shoot these films?
I have always thought that Piatra Neamţ, the town of my birth, is very cinematic. And as I live in New York and know Piatra Neamţ like the back of my hand, while I was writing the screenplay, I didn’t need to do any location scouting. That came later, and my parents helped: we took long drives around the county, and I found some very interesting locations with them. But the most important thing is that I thought those places had a lot to offer the film. Moreover, I tried to hire as many people as possible who had an emotional connection to Piatra Neamţ, who were either born there – for example, Vasile Muraru [who plays the police station chief in both films] – or who collaborated with the local theatre. It was an exploratory endeavour for me, as I discovered so many new things about the town I already knew so well.
In Miracle, it feels like the audience is always aware of where the camera is. Why this decision?
I hope that the members of the audience won’t actually always be aware of where the camera is. These three films share the same world, but stylistically, I wanted them to be as different as possible. As Unidentified is so subjective, always focusing on the same character, the camera always followed him. In Miracle, I needed something different, and together with [DoP] Oleg Mutu, I went for a more objective approach. The camera is trying to tell us something that exists beyond the actual story. The camera conveys the fact that there is a superior order, something hovering above my story and my characters. At times, these characters are even off screen for several minutes. I was trying to investigate a different layer.
What about the final part of the trilogy?
It’s about a nun played by Cătălina Moga. We see this character at the beginning of Miracle, as Ioana Bugarin’s character leaves the monastery. They cross paths and exchange a glance. I hope this film will round off the whole trilogy nicely, because Unidentified is about a man, while Miracle is practically divided into two halves, one focusing on a woman and the other on a man. The third, which is also a very subjective film, will be focusing on a woman.
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