Future Frames 2017 Interview: Matei Lucaci-Grunberg (Director of Bones For Otto)

Romanian director Matei Lucaci-Grunberg is a theater and film director, screenwriter, and playwright whose latest film Bones For Otto is a playful examination of the ‘world’s oldest profession’. You can read a full review of the film HERE. The director has studied at the National University of Theater and Film I.L. Caragiale (UNATC) in Bucharest.

Cineuropa Shorts chatted to Matei Lucaci-Grunberg as he prepared to screen the film as part of European Film Promotion’s Future Frames at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

Cineuropa Shorts: Bones For Otto is a look at the ‘world’s oldest profession’ – where did the idea first come about to tell the story?
Matei Lucaci-Grunberg: The idea wasn’t mine. The film is an adaptation of a play written by Lia Bugnar (actress, playwright and theatre-director). I went to see the play and it seemed very funny and intriguing. I thought it would make an interesting film.

CS: How did you go about casting – the film is essentially a two-hander so it must have been important to ensure there was a good chemistry between your leads
ML-G: We organized a small casting (I think 8 actresses). I knew most of them and I was just looking for things to work organically between them. I was also interested in what they brought to the characters. We used significant dialogue and situations from the script and we played with them. In the end I choose Anca Dumitra and Nicoleta Hancu because they definitely had the chemistry and also because each of them came with a very different kind of approach. Anca was more into the comedy and the playfulness of the text, while Nicoleta bought more seriousness and passion.

CS: How long did you take to prepare and shoot the film? With ostensibly one location it would initially seem simple, but I would think that this might be deceptive….
ML-G: We prepared and rehearsed for the film for about one month. With the actors, I had a theatre-like approach which really helped us understand the text and set the tone. For me and my team (D.O.P. Misu Ionescu, editor Vali Bulgariu) the hardest part was the fact that we had, indeed, a very theatrical script, with loads of dialogue and only one location. We didn’t want it to be dull or boring, so we searched for different esthetical elements which could bring dynamism to our story. In a way, having such a limited situation, made us more creative in the technical department.

CS: How difficult was it to balance the comedic elements of the film? It’s definitely a comedy yet it never tips into broad slapstick or making fun of the main characters.
ML-G: We didn’t want to make fun of any of the characters and we couldn`t pick a side. I thought that both of the characters had real problems. They were both right and wrong at the same time. But aside from that, I didn’t want to take myself too seriously, especially because I was talking about a universe I didn`t really know. We wanted to discover a micro-world and examine it. While doing it, the first thing that came to my mind was the absurd situation of two women fighting for the best spot on the street. This helped a lot with the comedic part.

CS: What does being part of Future Frames mean to you? What do you hope to get out of Karlovy Vary?
ML-G: I am anxious and curious to meet different people from the industry. Being selected for Future Frames is obviously an important event. Best case scenario, I will get the chance to start the development for some new projects.

CS: What are working on next?
ML-G: I am preparing my feature film, finishing a short that I shot last year, developing another short and writing and directing some theatre plays.

03 July 2017, by Laurence Boyce