Bogdan Theodor Olteanu • Director of Mia Misses Her Revenge
“The characters and the plots are a collage of various situations I witnessed or heard about around me”
by Teresa Vena
- We talked to the Romanian director about his low-budget tragicomedy, which screened at this year's online edition of Slamdance
Mia Misses Her Revenge [+see also:
interview: Bogdan Theodor Olteanu
film profile] is the second part of a planned trilogy from Romanian director Bogdan Theodor Olteanu. The film, which centres on a young woman struggling with relationships and with her sexuality, has the feel of a documentary, its camera staying very close to the protagonists. The viewer is confronted with topics such as violence against women, abuse and the rivalry among actors in the theatre and in show business. The film was selected for this year’s online edition of the Slamdance Film Festival (12-25 February) after having been premiered at the Warsaw Film Festival. Director Olteanu spoke with us about his inspiration for the story, his working method and the aesthetic concept of the film.
Cineuropa: What inspired you to tell this story?
Bogdan Theodor Olteanu: I guess I got the stories for the first two films from the social stratum I live in: composed of a mix of petite bourgeoisie, wannabe bohème and various artists. The characters and the plots are a collage of various situations I witnessed or heard about around me.
A couple of years ago, I started playing around with the idea of a trilogy, which was to feature three distinct twenty-something female protagonists and take place in Bucharest, in this environment that I know very well. This is a generation that is changing the way culture and the public space look like and feel — for the better, I hope. Several Conversations About a Very Tall Girl and Mia Misses Her Revenge are the first two parts of it, and I’m planning on shooting the third in 2022 or 2023.
I am also interested in how new ideas fight their way into the public discourse. There is a lot of conflict when trying to match theory with reality. Principles that are indisputable on paper are sometimes hard to put in practice. That is a source of drama but can at the same time be comical. Not the lightest of comedy, but funny nonetheless.
Did you follow a strict while filming or was there space for improvisation?
We started rehearsing from a detailed treatment and some character descriptions, which were the basis for developing the script. But we didn't use it much during filming, so the actual dialogues are mostly improvised. Sometimes in part, sometimes completely. Some actors are comfortable with complete freedom, others need some anchor in wording. The storyline and overall structure were fixed — a sequence needed to go from point A to B and this was mandatory. The road from A to B often varied from take to take.
What does the silent film you introduced mean to you and why was it important for the film more specifically?
It is a fragment from a film made in 1908 by Louis Feuillade and Romeo Bosetti. It is called Une dame vraiment bien and it shows a lady — a vraiment bien one — placed in various situations ranging from admiration to harassment, or what we are labelling today as such. It is a series of visual gags where a woman has to respond to what men see, think or want.
You chose two camera options, a static one and a handheld camera that emphasises the point of view of the main protagonist. What was the aesthetic concept you had for the film?
The main character is very young and she is an actress. There is a certain performativity in everything she does and I looked for a way to emphasise the fact that although her drama is very real her behaviour is often “staged”. She is not doing it on purpose, she just can’t stop performing. I used the fixed camera and the long takes to make the audience feel as if they were watching a reality show. In juxtaposition, the handheld camera is more lively, more alert, and it is the world as “edited” by Mia.
How did you find your actors?
With a couple of exceptions, I had worked with all of them before, either in film or in theatre.
What did the actors bring to the characters from their own perspective?
During the rehearsals, I encouraged the actors to add things to their characters beyond what was in the script. The story stayed the same, but the people in it could find new ways to express it. And there are a couple of scenes where the content is very personal, for example when they are sharing casting stories or when the girls are playing “Fuck Marry Kill”.
In the end, the actors brought a lot to the script, due to the shooting method and the duration of the process. For example, Ioana Bugarin, the actress playing Mia, worked for almost a year developing the character. Other actors were involved in improvisation exercises months before the actual shooting.
What were the biggest challenges you encountered during the making of the film?
Having to work on an extremely tight schedule, but it is something I am used to. And then doing some of the post-production work during the pandemic. That was quite an experience.
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