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Resilience is All We Have: Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović on Murina



After reducing her tooth with the Student Academy Award-nominated quick movie “Into The Blue,” Croatian filmmaker Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović crafted a feature-length mission for its hanging star Gracija Filipović. Awarded the Caméra d’Or for Best First Feature on the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, “Murina” expands on lots of the quick’s themes, together with a meditation of Croatia’s tradition of violence and quickly altering economic system. 

The violence in “Murina” just isn’t all bodily, nonetheless. Set on the idyllic coast of the Adriatic Sea, Kusijanović’s movie explores emotional violence, and the violence of the ocean itself. Gracija Filipović offers a star-making flip as 17-year-old Julija, who spends her summer time diving for eel along with her domineering father Ante (Leon Lucev) whereas eager for the relief she sees different teenagers round her having fun with on their yachts. Their rocky household dynamic shatters after the arrival of Ante’s wealthy, worldly, and mysterious pal Javier (Cliff Curtis), who additionally occurs to be his ex-boss and the ex-love of his spouse Nela (Danica Curcic). A sluggish burn drama, with beguiling cinematography from Hélène Louvart, “Murina” tackles coming-of-age with a shocking ferocity. 

RogerEbert.com spoke to Kusijanović over Zoom concerning the issue of filmmaking by the ocean, the significance of telling tales about violence in idyllic locations, and moray eels as a metaphor for youthful resilience. 

Gracija Filipovic performs a personality named Julija in each the quick “Into The Blue” and “Murina.” Is there a thematic connection between the 2 characters?

I’m very lazy with arising with names. That’s truly why I didn’t change the title. I did need to honor the quick and the connection to it, however I do not assume that the character of Julija within the quick movie and have is identical one. I did write the function after I labored on the quick movie with Gracija as a result of I assumed that she is an actress who would quickly make a function and I actually wished to place that on display screen earlier than she turned absolutely an grownup. So it was my intention to seize a really delicate time of a woman changing into a lady at 15 or 16. The quick was not made to finance the function or as a proof of idea. When I made the quick, I did not have a plan for a function but. 

You’ve been working with Gracija since she was about 9 years previous. What did you first see in her and what was it like creating a working relationship over so a few years?

She was very disciplined. She was able to work. She was able to take a very long time to develop this character. She had curiosity in such a piece, which I discovered very fascinating, such a self-discipline at that age. First I did a music video along with her, then we did the quick movie. After the quick movie, I began casting along with her within the room and writing the function movie for her. So after all, there’s many gifted kids and other people I may have labored with, however to develop a mission like “Murina,” which is bodily and emotionally so complicated and tough to endure, I actually wished anyone with self-discipline to comply with this journey.

The story is full of quite a lot of dread and complicated feelings and inside turmoil, and but it is set on this lovely, idyllic location which is an fascinating distinction. What is the significance of the placement for the themes you had been exploring?

It was intentional to place such a narrative in some shiny and exquisite utopian setting. It is branded typically that violence occurs in darkish alleys and soiled, ugly locations. That’s why it is really easy, I believe, to omit this equal quantity violence in international locations like mine. And it is fairly often mistaken with mentality, , like a sure sort of language and a sure sort of habits just isn’t violence as a result of nothing could be actually violent by the seaside within the solar. It’s extra of a mentality. That’s one thing that I wished to shift. But additionally, I really feel that this nature can be very violent. There isn’t any shade, there isn’t any place to cover. It’s actually like being uncooked meat. Like flesh burning below the solar. Then even the smallest dynamics have area to develop and to escalate into drama. That’s why I believe that this setting is such good soil for violence.

In crafting the visible language you labored with Hélène Louvart, who is among the biggest cinematographers working right now. I used to be actually impressed with the best way she captured that violence but in addition with that stunning, kind of eerie underwater images. What was your collaborative course of along with her?

Hélène Louvart is definitely among the finest cinematographers of our time. She’s very delicate and extremely understanding of the story and the characters and arcs. But her largest forte is she is ready to make very complicated issues quite simple. That is the way you need motion pictures to be on the floor, very fluid and easy and flowing. Not being too heavy handed with sure groups and metaphors, so they might by some means resurface later as soon as the film settles and you’ll come out of the theater after which these juxtapositions begin to join to one another. That’s why I actually cherished working along with her. Also, she’s a very nice companion on set. This was a really difficult film to shoot. Shooting underwater is one set of issue, however capturing on the water, above the water, and subsequent to the water is equally as difficult. Everything is all the time shifting, whether or not it’s the boat, or the ocean, or the actors, or a digicam, and all the things all the time strikes in a special rhythm. So this was a really difficult, each emotionally and tactically, movie to make. She was an excellent companion.

Do you assume shifting ahead, you’d make one other movie kind of in an analogous location? Or do you are feeling such as you’ve kind of reached your inventive kind of most in a spot like the ocean?

I do not imagine in reaching inventive most ever. I imply, I do not imagine I may have squeezed all the things out of one thing so visceral and actual. Of course, there’s extra tales to inform. Of course, now, I select to not inform my second film in the identical method as a result of I’m interested by exploring different issues. But I by no means know whether or not or when I’m going to come back again to the identical very acquainted groups.

I used to be intrigued by the dynamic between Julija and her father. He may be very oppressive and may have bursts of violence, typically managed, however typically very violent, and emotional violence, and she or he appears to strive to withstand that. But there’s additionally that violence all the time below the floor, which then clearly explodes in direction of the top. How did you calibrate that stress between these two performances?

There had been quite a lot of discussions on set and within the writing course of, in addition to in publish about how a lot violence will we need to present? Do we need to present the violence as it’s right here, or do we wish a extra digestible model so it is watchable? We positively went after this softer model of violence. Speaking to that, typically folks in Croatia watching the film say “What is it actually about? It’s only a common household. What’s the fuss about?” That’s once I realized that it was very well timed, and so necessary to make this film, particularly for these folks.

In phrases of the 2 actors and constructing their dynamic, and their consolation with such violence, we spent quite a lot of time collectively. I wish to work with actors rather a lot. So we lived collectively on an island for over 30 days. We did quite a lot of bodily workouts to bridge that discomfort of bodily area, and they’re each very tactile, underwater above the water. I wished that to really feel pure to those two characters. As a household, we did quite a lot of dance; tango, salsa. We did quite a lot of diving. We even did some kind of wrestling in an performing train method. That was the best way to method execution of the bodily violence as soon as on set.

One of the recurrent themes I discovered within the movie is the economics of the household, each of their relationships to one another primarily based on cash, but in addition the daddy attempting to promote land to his pal. Can you discuss a bit about what you had been going for, by way of, the economics of dwelling?

There’s quite a lot of commentary on a category, sure. Because I come from a rustic that’s extremely lovely, that lays on very, very large cultural and historic heritage. In my nation, most people personal the land and personal the homes and the flats they dwell in. That’s one of many explanation why, for therefore lengthy, this economic system has been sustainable, despite the fact that it’s totally small. But lately, the folks have stopped truly creating their creativeness, they’ve stopped creating culturally, they’ve stopped creating intellectually. The want at this second is to get wealthy quick, and the simplest method to take action is to promote what you’ve got inherited. There’s positively eroding inheritance, not for that technology, however for each different technology after it. Not solely eroding inheritance, however that’s taking away our freedom. 

We have a saying within the previous Republic of Dubrovnik, that was the Republic for over 800 years, “Freedom can’t be offered for all of the gold of the world.” So by some means metaphorically I used to be attempting to specific that which I’ve all the time been very moved by, which is what occurs if the entire gold of the world may purchase this man’s land if the gods on earth got here, and the way simply would one’s ego feed off of that and attempt to promote their heritage. It is one thing that it isn’t solely fictional in my movie, it is one thing that occurs every single day. It’s not solely weakening our economic system, but in addition it’s actually quick sighted for my nation.

Another cultural ingredient to the movie is the moray eel looking. I do not know that I’ve ever seen it portrayed fairly the best way you filmed it. What does it imply for the area and what does it imply for the characters?

Moray eel to locals is a delicacy. Going again to the query concerning the father-daughter dynamic, the daddy needs to kill this uncommon animal. This delicacy. He needs to pores and skin her and switch the pores and skin the wrong way up, grill her, to soften its fats into her meat or a overseas one. That is one factor. The different factor is that the moray eel is an animal, however her character, she doesn’t assault, she has her personal hidden cut up locations. But as soon as she’s endangered, she’s going to chew her personal flesh to free herself. She’s gonna chew after all the predator, however she goes to additionally chew herself. And Julija is actually able to do the identical. She’s able to destroy her household, she’s able to even jeopardize her personal life, she’s able to do something she will be able to to free herself.

When you had been creating the script, did you all the time have the moray eel metaphor on the middle? If not, how did you come to consider the character that method?

There’s all the time one thing I believe unconscious that occurs. From the start I had the title “Murina” in thoughts. With writing you are following your instinct after which later you understand that sure issues will not be synchronicity solely or serendipity. They’ve all the time been there, you simply named them now. They simply clicked it robotically. So among the issues after all, I used to be conscious of as I used to be writing, however quite a lot of issues have been so embedded in some collective reminiscences that they floor within the script in such a method.

I additionally was actually interested by the best way Julija’s swimsuits are virtually their very own character. They remodel a bit as she transforms in direction of the top. They virtually really feel like armor for her. How did you develop the look you wished for the swimsuits?  

When I used to be working with my costume designer Amela Baksic, I stated to her that I would like Julija to get armor from God. I would like it to be from an exterior world, of the material they’ve by no means seen. I wished it to really feel like a second pores and skin, an improved pores and skin, a pores and skin that may give her energy and confidence to confront her atmosphere in a method she by no means had. But, it is so necessary that it does not stand out in a method that’s not a part of their world. So I wished to floor it additionally in Marina. I would like it to really feel just like the pores and skin of an eel. And after all that pores and skin is a overseas pores and skin. It’s additionally an animal pores and skin. It’s fabricated from a really skinny Japanese neoprene, however it’s not Julija’s pores and skin. She must do away with this synthetic pores and skin to free herself, particularly as a result of it comes from an outsider.

How lengthy did you’re employed along with your costume designer on the fits? 

One 12 months. Actually, to be exact, eight months. We had been in Croatia and the go well with was completed between Japan and the US. So we had quite a lot of fittings and touring of the fits forwards and backwards. Also Gracija’s physique was creating from after we began to after we shot. It was essential for me to maintain as a lot as I may, this childlike physique. I wished her to really feel barely extra androgynous. So the go well with turned increasingly more and extra clothed.

I learn that you simply made this movie partially for the 16 12 months olds which can be at present in Croatia, but in addition for adults to recollect the resilience of childhood. Why do you assume resilience is so necessary?

That is all we’ve got. Resilience, having the knowledge and achievements of right now with out the requisite resilience of a 16 12 months previous is value nothing. It is so fleeting, it is so exhausting to maintain on that vitality and playfulness and childishness in ours, as a result of every single day after we get up, the world is designed to kill precisely that. I bear in mind after dwelling for 15 years in New York, and feeling I used to be at somewhat crossroad in my life. I spoke to my grandfather, and he stated to me, you want to proceed doing all the things you’ve got been doing and that you want to bear in mind whenever you had been within the first grade of highschool. What did she need? Go with that want. So that is the most effective recommendation anybody ever gave me.

I do know audiences in several international locations will most likely relate otherwise, however what do you hope folks will really feel by the point the movie is over?

I can reply that query with somewhat bit extra confidence, as a result of I do hear from the viewers already. Now the movie has been screened in France and the UK. In France, it remodeled 51,000 Euros, which is a really massive quantity given COVID and it being a Croatian-language movie. On a day by day foundation, I obtain emails and messages from folks all over the world which can be connecting to the movie, in many desirable methods. They are speaking of their household, of now lastly understanding their mom or now lastly resolving the conflicts with their father. Somehow even empathizing with that. Remembering, after all, the identical resilience they’d as a baby. I bear in mind folks saying to me, “I cried for myself.” That is a really fascinating therapeutic factor that you would watch the film and cry for your self, not for the character.

That’s a very deep connection. I really like that.

I used to be very moved by that. Every time I obtain one, no letter feels previous. Every time I’m pulled in the identical method when anyone writes to me concerning the film as a result of I assume that is the purpose that I hoped it might obtain.

I additionally actually hope that the movie shall be obtained effectively within the U.S. It is essential for me. I do assume it is an necessary movie for us proper now. Especially with quite a lot of surprising issues taking place in our nation proper now.

Are there every other administrators who’re ladies who might have impressed you to be a filmmaker or whose movies you like and assume folks ought to search out?

I really like the movies of Alice Rohrwacher. I had not recognized her as a filmmaker for a really very long time. The first one I noticed was “Lazzaro felice.” That’s how I found Hélène Louvart. Then I found her different movies and I felt unimaginable closeness to her work. I understood these those that she portrayed. I felt that they had been near my folks. But additionally after all, I imply, we will by no means converse of a lady filmmaker and never converse of Jane Campion as a result of she’s the one who really portrays full bodied girl. Her signature movie is “The Piano,” and the truth that the girl there may very well be an artist and a spouse and a mom and violent and betraying and sexual and good and empathic and sensual and rival along with her baby and give up to life and surrendered to her needs … I believe that she is a captivating feminine character.

“Murina” shall be obtainable in restricted theaters beginning July 8.

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