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Futures: Cosmina Stratan and Cristina Flutur Discuss Their Joint Cannes Win, Theater vs. Film Acting, and Their Experiences 'Beyond the Hills'

By Eric Mattina | Indiewire March 14, 2013 at 9:40AM

Why They're On Our Radar: Many heads were turned following the announcement of last May's Cannes Film Festival winner for Best Actress where, despite the long list of veteran and established actresses many felt certain would take the prize, the award went to not one, but two actresses who have never before appeared in a film. Cosmina Stratan was working as a TV and print journalist when she came under consideration for one of the leads in Cristian Mungiu's new film "Beyond the Hills," while Cristina Flutur worked as a classical theater actress. Neither worked in film before and suddenly their lives have turned into a whirlwind of press, news, and awards.
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The film has been evoking a lot of comparisons to directors like Carl Theodore Dryer, etc, though that could be a lot of American critics tendency to force comparison even when they aren’t there. Were there any other films or books that Cristian imparted on you before or during the shoot to express the type of tone or narrative he desired?

Cristina: He actually told me at the beginning that he prefers that the actors not get that much information, and not to do too much analyzing. Instead, he wanted them to have the situation, have them enter the situation, and just press the button and they are on the air. And I feel the same way. You need to be a little bit pure about the situation, and not to get too much information or too much comparison. You need to search for the character yourself, to connect to the story yourself, without thinking “Oh! This scene might be similar to that scene in the film that I saw two years ago.” You become too rational and you detach yourself from the story, but you have to be inside the story, live the story, be there. For an actor, it’s more of an effort to just enter inside. That’s probably one of the reasons why I chose this kind of. . . I don’t know if it’s a “job”. . . this curious thing that we do up there on the screen.

Did you two prepare together at all to form a basis for this relationship, or did you solely do it isolated? It’s surprising to hear how cold you all went into this project, especially since the film has this strange dichotomy of feeling both heavily rehearsed and extremely natural.

Beyond the Hills
Sundance Selects

Cristina: We didn’t talk at all about the characters, about the story, about anything. We related to it personally, and for me it helps because I have more intimate relations to the story and the character so I like to just be myself and work with it. It was good that we both went very passionate into the project, and we did our best and it showed. I could feel the other actors all wanting to be there, having done their homework and all that, because it is also about chemistry. When you meet somebody for the first time or during the audition, you don’t have much time to actually build a relationship with the director or the partner. It’s a chemistry or its not. It’s either white or black, and I believe Cristian has a really good sense at feeling chemistry between partners, not only between me and Cosmina but also the others actors and at creating a great network. And this is one of the talents that a director should have. It’s important for the team that you rely on to be a strong unit. And it’s also important the first note, how you begin a film. In theater you have a month, a month and a half, to rehearse, and you try different things because the premiere will be in two months. So you can make mistakes, and even change it over time during the run if you feel something is not true to a character. But in film you don’t have time to rehearse, and you need to have this connection with the character, and to catch the character from the first note like a symphony. If the first note of a symphony is false, you cannot save it. So the first day of shooting was very important for us, and I felt a connection with the other actress, felt a connection with the director, and felt a connection with the team so it was just “Whew! This will be OK.” But the first day is very tough, because if you make the wrong step, if you go on this road and its not the road of the character, there is no time to go back and try again. You don’t have the luxury that you have in theater.

Does working in more films feel like the next step?

Cristina: I would hope to, but I hope the projects that will come will be at least as interesting as this one. It’s important when you have a very good story, very good character, very good director, and very good partners because its just heaven, and you want to be in it! Everybody worked with so much passion on the project.

It’s interesting that you call it heaven when for the audience it is anything but. Maybe its just a testament to the film’s success, but the whole experience is so strenuous and exhausting. Was this the same experience while shooting, or did you find the experience to be easier than what it seems?

Cristina: It’s never easy even when it seems easy. But especially this kind of story in itself, it isn’t very easy to relate to. I read the script and just went “How. . how can this be? How is this possible?” from the reality point of view, because its based on a true story. I couldn’t find in the script when things go in the wrong direction, because violence just enters so smoothly. You don’t exactly know the moment where it CLICKS and it goes in the wrong direction.

Do you find your own future in film, Cosmina?

Cosmina: I want to try to do more films, but different types of characters. I think this is the price for an actor. If you are an actor, you can do different types of characters. If you are just revealing more aspects of your personal life, this is not acting. This is just relieving yourself, but its not acting. It’s really hard to pick stories after this one. I don’t want to say “Oh I want to work, but I don’t want to work with this one or that one.” I want to work. I had some offers but they aren’t very good ones, so I will wait. We have been away for some time, but it was released in Romania about a month ago. I think it did pretty good there, considering we don’t have a really cinema educated public. They aren’t really accustomed to going to the cinema, paying for a ticket and seeing a movie. But for our level of being accustomed with cinema, I think it went alright.

This article is related to: Beyond The Hills, Cosmina Stratan, Cristina Flutur, Cristian Mungiu, Futures






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