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SARAJEVO 2019 Competition

Cătălin Mitulescu • Director of Heidi

“In any story, age has a weight”

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- We chatted about love as a tango and unbalanced relationships with Romanian director Cătălin Mitulescu, whose newest feature, Heidi, is now competing at Sarajevo

Cătălin Mitulescu  • Director of Heidi

After Loverboy [+see also:
trailer
interview: Ada Condeescu
film profile
]
and By the Rails [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Cătălin Mitulescu
film profile
]
, Romanian director Cătălin Mitulescu explores a new difficult relationship in Heidi [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Cătălin Mitulescu
film profile
]
, one of the two Romanian thrillers with a 60-plus male protagonist selected in the official competition at this year’s Sarajevo Film Festival. Here is what the director has to say about age, love and the dynamics of a complex relationship.

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Cineuropa: How did you start developing this feature about a policeman nearing retirement?
Cătălin Mitulescu:
While I was developing Loverboy [in 2010], I worked with a policeman who really inspired me. His job had often put him in situations where it would have been impossible for him not to get involved emotionally. For an older man, a relationship with a very young girl implies risks for both of them: even if he seems to control the relationship, he is vulnerable, too. He can choose the straight and narrow path, as he has done in 99% of the cases, but there is that 1% of the time when he crosses the line. If nobody catches him, he can keep walking straight like any other man.

There are so few Romanian films with a protagonist in his sixties…
Well, mine is in his sixties. He tries to help the girl, and he behaves almost like a father to her. The story follows this dynamic for a while, but as I said, the balance is extremely fragile. The feelings are mixed. I was interested in this change, and Gheorghe Visu knows perfectly well how to convey and carry this weight. In any story, age has a weight, and here it increases the drama of the relationship, but it also increases its beauty. For a man of this age, the relationship is more intense because it lives only in the present.

Given that your last few features focus on very unbalanced love stories, this may very well mean that you think love is impossible. How would you comment on that?
I don’t think love exists only in harmonious relationships. Walking hand-in-hand in front of the sunset is wonderful, but I am more interested in exploring love in dynamic relationships. A tango is a fight, and I think this fight is encountered more often in life. Maybe I am only interested in this aspect of love, and by that I don’t mean physical love.

What is your opinion of your protagonist? Do you consider him a hero, a villain or an antihero?
I try to understand him. He roused many emotions in me when I was writing the screenplay. My work with [co-writer] Radu Aldulescu was extraordinary; he is a wonderful writer. He helped me understand him better, and Gheorghe Visu succeeded in creating a very powerful character. I think I got close to this character and I made an effort not to judge him.

Heidi may very well polarise the Romanian audience, as the story brings to mind a murder case that inflamed the country only weeks ago. What would you like the audience to know before watching your film?
People are strange creatures able to do unimaginable deeds. I try to understand, as I don’t know everything, and maybe I am not even able to understand everything. I can only think about what happened and try to understand a person who is a human being, like I am. Moreover, if that girl hadn’t called [the emergency services], that man would have carried on with his life, his neighbours, the autumn chores, his church visits.

Why did you call your film Heidi, if the title character is only a catalyst for the protagonist?
Because Heidi changes his life, exactly like the girl changes the grandfather’s life [in Johanna Spyri’s book]. Heidi is very generous; she is a true fighter. Cătălina Mihai conveyed this with wonderful ease. She changes his world, and you can feel that in every frame.

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