The Limits of Representation: An Interview with Radu Jude

BALKANROUTEN
14. November 2018 im Filmhaus am Spittelberg

RADU JUDE

2018 Cele doua executii ale Maresalului (Kurzfilm)
2018 Îmi este indiferent daca în istorie vom intra ca barbari
2017 Tara moarta
2016 Inimi cicatrizate
2015 Aferim!
2014 Scurt/4: Istorii de inimã neagrã (Omnibusfilm)
2014 Trece si prin perete (Kurzfilm)
2013 O umbra de nor (Kurzfilm)
2012 Toata lumea din familia noastra
2011 Film pentru prieteni
2009 Cea mai fericitã fatã din lume
2007 Dimineata (Kurzfilm)
2006 Alexandra (Kurzfilm)
2006 Lampa cu caciula (Kurzfilm)
2002 In familie (TV Serie)

Radu Jude on the set of Scarred Hearts

Interview by Andrey Arnold & Patrick Holzapfel

You made quite a few short films and you still make them. Can you tell us a bit about how you treat the short form in comparison to a feature film? Is there any difference between the two for you? Did you make some films as part of a film education program or was it never like that for you?

Radu Jude: I am not making many short films now, I recently made one using some archive footage, it is called The Marshal’s Two Executions and it is just a simple comparison of images – images from the documentary of the execution of wartime fascist leader Ion Antonescu juxtaposed with the images of the same event as it was staged in a feature film which glorifies the Marshal. One can find a lot to think about after seeing this comparison, I hope. Otherwise, I don’t plan on making short films for the moment, not because I don’t consider them a serious form of filmmaking, but because my subjects (or how I think of them) need a little bit more screen time. Otherwise, for me, there’s no difference between the two forms and I consider a film like, let’s say, Un chien andalou as good as Out 1.

How was the creative process behind the scripts you co-wrote with Florin Lăzărescu different from when you wrote alone – and what did you learn from him as a collaborator?

Florin is not only a gifted writer (and speaking about short forms, I must say I consider his short stories to be the best in contemporary Romanian literature), but a good friend as well, despite the fact that he lives far, far away from me. As to what I learned from him, I am not sure I can put that into words, but it has to do with a special way of looking at things – he can notice a small event and see something much deeper in it. And he is a humanist, for sure, while I am a bit colder than he is. For the moment I write alone, I need to explore cinema in directions that don’t say much to him or I use other texts as a starting point (as was the case with Scarred Hearts, based on M. Blecher, or the way it is now with a film I am preparing, which is based on the play Tipografic majuscul by Gianina Cărbunariu).

Are there any “rules“ or principles that you believe one should take into account when filming history or putting history on film?

No, of course not, everyone can do this in his or her own way. The beauty of films is that there are no rules, apart from the ones imposed by others or self-imposed. As for me, I believe that this illusionist reconstruction of the past is not only impossible, but also questionable (after all, why would you want to give the viewers the illusion that “this is exactly how things were 200 years ago”), so I tried to at least find ways of representing the past in a manner that also shows the limits of this representation.

Do you feel that Romania’s treatment of its problematic past(s) has changed in recent times, and if so, in what way?

I think some progress has been made, but it is very fragile. For instance, when I was in high school at the beginning of the 90’s, nobody mentioned the Romanian participation in the mass murders of WW2, but there is some information on this now. On the other hand, in the last few years one can notice a revival of nationalism, put to use in many different ways. For instance, we just had a shameful referendum organized by the state hand in hand with the Romanian Orthodox Church. The referendum was about “the definition of the family,” but in fact it was just a hate referendum to prevent the possibility of equal rights for LGBTQ people. But not only that, the whole campaign in favour of that stupid referendum was filled with nationalism and conservatism in its most dubious forms (“let’s get back to our old Christian traditions,” “let’s not accept the fake values of Europe,” etc.) and all that in a frightening quantity. The fact that many people boycotted the referendum, which in the end was not successful, shows there’s some hope left.

When did you first become strongly aware of the extent of Romania’s historical antisemitism?

It was also while I was in high school, but not because of the school, but because of some books that appeared at that time. There was also a short documentary film, which now seems to be lost, so at least I can mention its name: The Last Jew by Florin Iepan. I still remember how impressed I was when I saw this film on TV.

You have noted in an interview that you don’t believe in the saying that history repeats itself. What do you mean by that?

I was referring to an idea that became some kind of a thinking cliché, the idea that “history repeats itself.” Because I think there are forms of thinking and behaviour that create similar events, but they also have different forms. I don’t think the Holocaust will happen again, but there are other horrible things, it is enough to see one image from Yemen to understand it is happening all the time.

Your films in some way escape typical “auteurist“ attributes. Here you employ intertitles, there you make a documentary with photographs, then you have male and female leads, filming in black and white as well as in colour, different aspect ratios, films about movement, films about being unable to move and so on. Maybe this is a silly question to ask, but how do you find the form for your films? How do you keep free from what already worked before?

Oh, this is (actually, was) one of my big frustrations, that I am not an auteur. I mean, I got over it, but I am still nostalgic for a personal style, a personal vision. I know I will never have it, I got used to this idea. I just make the films in a manner which I discover for each project at a time. That’s all.

Is it hard to get money for your films?

Well, my films are not very expensive and it was a little bit easier for my last project, but it is still very complicated. It helps that today one can make films without so much money. As Godard used to say, if I have only one dollar, I will make a one-dollar film.

Viennale 2016: Inimi Cicatrizate

  • Rainer, you complained about the woman sighing at a screening of Inimi Cicatrizate. I watched the film alternating between sighing and holding my breath. I experienced voluptuous pain when reading each of the excerpts from Blecher’s work quotes presented as intertitles and was at each moment mesmerized by Jude’s mastery of mise en scène. It is a film of odd beauty, one easily gets lost in its richness. There is absurdity in Inimi Cicatrizate, but it is another kind of absurdity, one that has choked on itself (Patricks review of the film).
  • Further moments of bliss with Peter Hutton: two men walking up the suspension cable of a bridge in Three Landscapes.
  • After so many festival days, the Viennale feels just like the merry-go-round-roundabout traffic-jam scene in Tati’s Playtime. In (the negligible) O Cinema, Manoel de Oliveira e Eu, João Botelho claims that the secrets to de Oliveira’s health were drinking whiskey and eating toasted bread with pure olive oil. I guess that having Playtime for breakfast in Gartenbaukino might work in the same way for all of us.
  • Six years after Meek’s Cutoff Kelly Reichardt makes a discreet-feeling and great film about people meeting people and almost every decision in it seems to come out of necessity.
  • Luc Dardenne confesses that in La fille inconnue he and Jean-Pierre have tried to create a charater with a sort of consciousness which they feel has dissappeared from society. I wish I could feel less like I’m being preached to.
  • Having to sit in a box in the Historischer Saal of the Metro Kino and watching the film with the view blocked by (beautiful perhaps) sculpted wood makes one think about the Eric Pleskow Saal with a feeling that almost resembles fondness.
  • Hans Hurch awards the Meteor(ite) Prize to Jem Cohen but we all suspect him of having betrayed the filmmaker by giving him not a piece of meteorite but something he brought from his trip to Greece.
  • For all those who have, like me, always wondered if filmmaker use special effects in order to make Emmanuel Salinger’s eyes appear bigger – no, they don’t. I’ve seen him in the lobby of Metro Kino.