Corneliu Porumboiu ('12:08 East Of Bucharest')
'In From The Cold'
It's been 16 years since the Revolution and Christmas is approaching.
Pisconi, an old retiree, is preparing to spend another lonely Christmas. Manescu, a history teacher, doesn't want to lose his entire salary to pay his debts. Jderescu, the owner of the local TV station, doesn't seem very interested in vacation.
With Piscoci and Manescu's help, he wants to find an answer to a 16-year-old question: "Did a revolution really take place in their city?"
Chatting recently to the films director Corneliu Porumboiu, I first wondered with the script in hand, what his main concerns were about how to bring this satire to both a European and Non-European cinematic audience? Corneliu Porumboiu - "When I make a movie, I donít think about the audience; the audience is precisely the last thing I think about. Before shooting Iím concerned with acting problems, details I havenít covered yet, the shooting style, the art direction, etc. I think that if you assume your movie and you are sincere about it, the audience will understand it and youíll be successful."
Set in a small town outside of Bucharest on December 22nd, 2005 - the
16th anniversary of the fall of Ceausescu - the movie documents a live TV
show on the supposed 'revolution' that occurred just prior to the time of
12:08pm that day. Did such a TV show actually exist on that day back in '05 or has this question of such a 'revolution' simply been a constant one amongst Romanian's for as long as you can remember? "In 1999, I watched a TV show on a local TV station in Vaslui, my native town, situated somewhere NE of Bucharest. In that show, three people were trying to address the issue of whether there was a revolution in that town. In a short time, the answer to this question will turn around a specific time of the day, 12:08. At that moment, I stopped watching the show and six years later I made this movie. Was there a revolution in Romania or not? This is a question that was left unanswered, and which, unfortunately, returns obsessively every year on December 22nd."
So, just where were you on that infamous day back in 1989 as a young 14
year-old boy? What are your memories of that historical day; memories that
you were able to bring to the directing table whilst filming, perhaps? "During that particular morning of December 22nd, I played ping-pong with a friend and then I went home, where my family and some of our friends were watching the revolution live on TV."
With the latter half of the film being told from the viewpoint of the TV
studio, did this make filming suddenly easier, knowing that there were to be
no more external elements to tackle? "That was the most difficult part in making the film. To recreate a talk show in real time, to tune and to follow each character, and to be able to maintain the audienceís attention even after the first 15 minutesÖ unlike me, who gave up watching that particular show after the first 15 minutes."
What was the reason for the boy walking past the bar playing his
instrument at the beginning? Was he the one who later said that he had
broken said instrument, perhaps?! "The boy is walking toward the TV studio to try to fix his instrument. Itís the same boy who canít play in the studio because his instrument is broken."
Also, when you filmed the following of the car driven by Jderescu (just
after they have purchased the Christmas Tree for Old Man Piscoci) as they
head to the studio, you do so for @ one (1) full minute! Why was that so
necessary to film for such a prolonged period of time? "Itís more than a minute and I felt the need for a break between the first and the second part of the film."
Was that a real band that they had in the TV studio prior to the show
starting?! Because I really liked that Salsa song they were performing! "The band is real. They were not in the script at the beginning, but I discovered them when I was doing the location scouting for the film. I really liked that tune a lot and decided that I wanted to include it in the movie."
As Eastern European films can sometimes be defined as somewhat bleak and
depressing (due to locations and monetary restraints, etc.), given your
subject matter how easy was it for you to include so many pockets of subtle
hilarity? "Itís difficult for me to answer this question; thatís simply how I am."
Being that the film was spoken entirely in Romanian, it was a blessing -
even for my Romanian friend watching with me - that there were English
subtitles ... as a fair chunk of the secondary dialogue was entirely
inaudible. Why was this a factor or was it simply I had a bad copy to watch,
perhaps? Also, the first half of the film seemed to have a slight green hue to
most all of the indoor scenery and some external shots. If this was indeed
true (and not just a fault of the DVD that we were sent!), please explain
why this was indeed purposefully incorporated into the film? "I think itís a DVD problem. Maybe there was an European PAL version which is not compatible with the NTSC system. On the other hand, I made my film for the cinema theaters and I think the beginning has a much stronger impact in the theaters."
Please tell us a behind-the-scenes secret about this film. Something
that when watched again will open our eyes and minds more! "I tried to make a movie about personal histories and personal truths. The conflict in this film begins with the clash of these two elements."
Before you graduated from the Bucharest University of Dramatic Art and
Cinema in 2003, you had already directed five (5) short films; some of which
went on to also win awards! Has directing and filmmaking in general always
been in your family or is this a new heritage you are creating? "My father graduated with a degree in Economics, and now he runs his own business; my mother is in the Humanities, teaching Romanian language and literature; and my brother joined my fatherís business after doing a similar degree in Economics. I started out in the same family tradition, majoring in Management, but ended up making movies instead. As you can see, Iím the first in my family who works in the movie industry."
Has work begun yet on a new film perhaps and if so please do tell us
more about it? "Iím a bit superstitious when it comes to talking about my ongoing projects. Iím working on two different ideas now."
Lastly, and just to throw in a final jovial curve ball, Exclusive
Magazine love Penguins ... do you?! "As somebody who canít stand the cold, I honestly admire and respect penguins!"
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
'12:08 East Of Bucharest' DVD Purchase Link
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