Meet Indie Filmmaker: TARANTYNO

By Mairi Cunningham

We speak to Romanian director Mircea Nestor about his recent submission to ECU’s European Dramatic Short category, Tarantyno. Unsuccessful in his attempts to charm an attractive girl and spurned by an irritating and dominant older brother, the eponymous anti-hero decides to take what he wants, with devastating results. Marcea’s answers shed light on his brutally comic story about a brutally lacking young man.

Q: Firstly, tell me what your film is about and where your inspiration for the story lies.

Tarantyno is about a guy who tries to impress his big brother and goes about it in all the wrong ways possible. [The] inspiration came from the usual places what you see around you, what you think about things, that kind of process.

Q: There is a definite shock value in the way your story unfolds. The humorous dialogue between the two brothers at the beginning coupled with the banality of their existence renders Tarantyno’s actions even more disturbing. Was this shock value something you specifically set out to achieve?

Well, no. It was just a matter of what fits best in the grand design sort of thing. And I think a lot of this shock value you refer to comes from the manner in which the film switches from comedy to something else. This tied in well with the fact that the character doesn’t appear to be aware that what he is doing is wrong.

Q: Is there significance in the focus you place on the material goods (e.g. the car, mobile phone and Tarantyno’s metal cigarette case)?

I thought the cigarette case would be a nice idea, like a little extra detail to illustrate this struggle of his to get accepted or respected and all his efforts being misguided and in vain. I don t know about other places, but here in Romania a cigarette case is something rather unusual. Not even the poshest of people have them, let alone a would-be security guard. As for the other objects, they just popped up in the story naturally as objects we all know and use. I wanted them to be kind of generic, nothing special.

Q: Explain a bit about the father figure in the film (or lack of). Do Tarantyno s actions ultimately stem from a need to prove himself within a very macho family culture?

I suppose that would be where it all stems from, yes. The little back story I did develop for the character involved this sort of macho family unit as you called it, I guess that’s the best name for it; in which Tarantyno has been stepped over. He has the lowest job in the family business, which is a shady gambling joint; he s the security guard. I figured that he doesn’t even work for a real security company, maybe his Dad just gave him the t-shirt he s wearing (which reads Tarantyno security), hence his poor appearance as a security guard. I mean, he doesn’t even have one of those rubber clubs. And it s obviously a mismatch, because he doesn’t seem built for the job anyway. So Tarantyno is left looking pathetic and wanting the respect he is sure he deserves from both his Father and his bigger brother, if only he would be given the chance to prove himself. That s where the story starts: when Tarantyno thinks he found his chance.

Q: Perhaps this is the wrong reaction, but when watching your film I was torn between disgust at Tarantyno s final act and sympathy towards him, particularly because of the way he is treated by his older brother and Narcisa. He struck me as a model of disenchanted and frustrated youth, unaccepted and belittled by those around him. Is this paradoxical reaction from the viewer something you were specifically aiming to achieve?

I don t think it s the wrong reaction at all; I would be worried if there wouldn’t be any mixed feelings. I can t say this was a principal aim, it was just a by-product. I mean, if the main character, the one we follow and feel for, is going to do something terrible- not even terrible, it just has to be something you don t approve of- you re going to have mixed feelings. This conflict between the way we empathize with him and the flaws he displays is a part of what makes watching a story unfold interesting. Imagine watching a film in which the character behaves and feels exactly the way you would if you were in his situation that would be quite boring and nothing would ever come out of something like that. It sort of goes against what a story is all about. Perhaps it was my aim to give people something to think about, have an opinion about I don t like it when I leave the cinema and I don t really know whether or not I liked it, it s just sort of a grey blob, Yeah, it was OK, whatever. I wanted to avoid that whatever. So if I had a specific aim during the whole thing, most probably it was this no whatevers.

Q: Tell me a little bit about the casting process and also generally about working with your actors.

Since this is a 3rd year film school project, we didn t have proper casting sessions or everything, we just used the internet. For instance, we visited theatre websites and looked there. As for screen tests, we just looked at previous films that had those actors in it. Actually, the three actors I worked with- Bogdan Cotle, Antonia Ionescu Micu and Constantin Di- all appeared in Cristian Nemescu’s California Dreamin. So we could watch them there. Then I met them, tried to project a confident self-image, handed them the script, they read it and apparently considered it wasn’t all rubbish because they agreed. Working with them was great, this was my first time working with professional actors, so, mostly for me, it was a learning experience. As was the whole of the film, really. All of them were really supportive and helped out a great deal, especially when by the second weekend of shooting the weather had changed drastically and Bogdan had to be in that t-shirt at 3 or 4 degrees Celsius for the sake of continuity. He joked that he got cold just watching the film. I believe he actually did, ha ha.

Q: What genre would you see you film falling under?

Ah, this is a tricky question because I m not really good with genres. Whenever I submit it to a festival and I have to choose the genre and can only choose two, I always go for comedy and drama, because that just seems to encompass everything. But, as to not dismiss your question entirely, I guess I see as a sort of dark comedy, only not at the same time. It s a comedy, and then it s dark. Sort of¦. Oh, I don’t know, let s call it a thriller. At least that ll look good on the poster, right?

Q: The scene towards the end of the film outside the city produced mixed emotions in me as a viewer. The brutality of the action and the long shot of the wasteland together produced something eerily beautiful. Tell me a little bit about this scene, both from a stylistic and practical point of view. And why the decision to shoot it in silence?

That place is actually an artificial lake in Bucharest, that has been abandoned for over twenty years and never finished, never put into use. So, basically, it s like a hollowed out lake, something of a marshland. I wanted to have a shot with the city in the distance and when I found this place I thought it would be really fitting, also because it was a little weird in reality, it s a pretty strange place and I thought it was quite menacing. The fact that it s so out of the way of most people, I mean nobody goes there except a few guys taking a shortcut or two guys trying out their ATVs (All Terrain Vehicles), which we actually saw. But that worked for us because we could film in peace and get that long, empty shot at the end. I ended the film with this because I thought it would be a sort of bottom line. You ve seen a lot of things happening, some were amusing, some not so, and this is the bottom line, this is what happened.

For more information about Tarantyno check out the film s official website. www.tarantyno.wordpress.com.

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