I will start by saying my first option for this interview was Bogdan Dumitrache. When we decided to take someone’s interview about Pororoca, the latest feature film by Constantin Popescu, I had Boogie in mind, only because he’s the lead character in the film. But it wasn’t meant to be and all the roads led me to Iulia.
Iulia Lumânare, an actress I knew very little about before seeing her playing the role of Cristina in Pororoca. I called her a few days ago and requested an interview; she didn’t hesitate for a second. On Monday evening I was waiting for her on the friendly pink couch from our headquarters. I arrived thirty minutes earlier only to make sure I won’t be late, as I usually am. However, this time, Iulia was late – but there was no way I could get upset. It was my turn to wait.
She arrived with a big smile on her face and impressed me from the moment we shook hands. A smart woman who shows her personality from the moment she walks through a door, Iulia was indeed a pleasant surprise during the entire interview. She told me about her first encounter with acting, about how she sees the future and how much of an influence are the roles she plays in her life. At the end of our discussion, she thanked me for a ‘different’ kind of interview and invited me to the theatre to see her play.
My meeting with Iulia was no ordinary one. She made me want even more for myself and showed me a glimpse of how Laura could be in ten years time. Iulia seemed a happy and peaceful person who bravely accepts every challenge life throws in her way.
I read a lot about you and your roles. I have to start by saying I haven’t had the chance to see you in any other films except Ana, Mon Amour (as the gynecologist) and Pororoca (as Cristina). However, I spotted the attention you pay to the relationship between the person and the actress Iulia. I would like to highlight here the constant need to be connected to your emotional, in order to define your character. In both films, the first step seems to be this profound search within yourself and only afterwards you start looking at your character and analyse it . What do you think you need to be an actor?
Yourself. And yes, your observation is correct. First of all, what’s important to me is discovering what I need to eliminate from my personality in order to play that role, and mostly what I don’t have in common with that character. I don’t think there are other ways of dealing with the psychological realism.
I read one of your interviews a few days ago, and you were saying acting appeared in your life in your 10th grade, when you saw Oana Pellea and Marcel Iureș on stage in Richard the Second. Did your parents support you ever since?
No, I had very different dreams at that time, regarding my future: I wanted to be a lawyer, a criminalist and a teacher. Acting wasn’t on my list until that night, when I experienced some strong feelings towards it; I clearly remember the moment when the two actors (Oana Pellea and Marcel Iureș) were descending the stairs at the end of the play. They had an expression on their faces that I had not seen before; it wasn’t the one of an actor who gives interviews or autographs. They were normal working people, exhausted after a three-hour-play and I said to myself: ‘I want this, too’; not the applause or the roles, just that exhaustion. My parents never supported me. I realised that I want to become an actress right after this moment, and I told them only in the 12th grade; at first, they thought it was a joke. After a while, my father asked me: ‘well, you can try, but what happens if you are not accepted?’. So I started worrying I won’t get into Acting School and decided to become a teacher. While studying for the Grammar exam, I received an awkward call. To this day, I still don’t have any idea who I talked to. I ruled out every possibility and found nothing. Anyway, he told me it wasn’t a good idea to apply to both universities, because getting into Literature was a safety option; so knowing that I would be accepted there could stay in my way of giving everything that I have at the audition for Acting BA. In the end, I haven’t applied to the Literature BA.
You are an actress, casting director and a teacher with a PHD; three professions that complement each other. What does each of them bring into your life?
My inner self is restless. Somehow, no matter how much I love something, it ends up losing its mystery because of my pragmatic nature. So, all these activities – writing scripts, being a casting director, teaching, directing, help me maintain my passion for acting. It helps me get back to it, always.
Are you afraid you’ll get bored?
Oh, yes. When I’m about 60-70 years old, I see myself living in a small house outside Bucharest, dealing with horse training and writing. I don’t see myself on stage, or at least this is how I picture myself at that age.
You had multiple roles, both in TV and film. I will mention a few titles, such as TV productions “Stay with me” and “La urgenta”, “Ninel” short film, by Constantin Popescu, where you played Miruna and the feature film “The Hunt” by Alexandra Balteanu, where you played the role of a prostitute. Do you think your teaching experience helps you as an actor, when you build up a character?
No. On the contrary, it can work against me; when you’re an actor, the pedagogical training you have is like a vent that needs to be closed down, otherwise you start analysing yourself and your partner’s acting skills.
And can you close it?
Pororoca is your third collaboration with director Constantin Popescu. The film follows the story of a regular happy family that looses one of their children during one single moment of absence, at a children playground. I read an interview with Constantin where he mentioned writing the script with you and Boogie (Bogdan Dumitrache, lead role) in mind. What was your reaction after reading it for the first time?
When I first read it I had no idea I was going to play in it. Constantin told me he wrote it with me in his mind a few months ago, at San Sebastian film festival. Bogdan knew it from the beginning.
At that time, I was writing my role for “Ana, Mon Amour” with Calin Peter Netzer; he let me write more than 90% of it. Constantin had reached an up to scratch draft of his film and invited me to read it and give my feedback on it. So we met and talked about it, but not about my character, but the film as a whole: how the conflict evolves, characters also. He called me back after a few months, with a new draft that I read and discussed. Only afterwards he told me he wants me to play in it and there’s no need for a casting call. Constantin is an atypical director, who never works the same twice. You never know what to expect, even though there are some defined things you know if you’ve worked with him before. It’s some sort of manipulation that I totally respect and enjoy. I think he wanted me to get the story as a whole first, so I can explore it in depth.
I guess you went through the script again, after receiving the news.
No, I haven’t touched it again until we started shooting. The moment I found out I was going to play Cristina’s character, all my mechanisms went crazy. I didn’t want to read it again.
I find it extremely difficult to empathize with such a situation, especially if you’ve never went through something like this. What mechanisms have you used to build Cristina’s character? To understand what she’s going through, emotionally and psychologically.
It’s some sort of inner liability that every actor has to maintain. We have to shape our emotions in a way that helps us access them anytime. Everything I needed to know about Cristina – the rational parts, was explained to me during my meetings with Constantin. Everything else summed up to one simple question – is Cristina smarter than Tudor and does she knows that? And Constantin said yes, to both questions. However, Tudor doesn’t and she has to keep it that way.
I must say I didn’t enjoy watching how the film looses its balance after Cristina leaves to her parents, with Ilie. The loss of balance was imminent, of course – Tudor, (Bogdan Dumitrache) finds himself alone, with no support or hope left. He has to fight with his demons on his own. However, I still don’t find Cristina’s forever departure justified, nor her attitude towards Tudor when he calls her and proposes to come visit. I found a totally different Cristina, than the one portrayed in the first half of the film. Would Iulia make the same decisions?
I don’t think Iulia would have managed the situation, and I guess that’s the difference between me and my character, Cristina. She’s more emotionally stable than I am, there’s a real survivor somewhere within her. It’s like in that famous story with the chicken – when the fowl takes her healthy baby and leaves. There’s a scene in the movie, the only one with me and Bogdan (n. Dumitrache) at the officer’s desk, where I had a nervous breakdown while shooting: my legs were shaking and I was crying. After this take, Constantin took me aside and told me: “this is not Cristina. Cristina has her son in her arms, that he needs to protect and the strength to overcome her pain”. In that moment, I received the last bit of information I had missing about my character and what’s coming next in her life. She had to protect the kid she had left.
What you took home with you after this movie?
I guess a bigger fear of having children. There’s terrifying to know that, whatever you do, as a parent, you will screw it up sooner or later. It’s a responsibility that, on one hand, it does attract me because I believe I could be a good mother; on the other hand that’s what scares me. So this is what I took home: a greater fear – because I had to go through it, even though I don’t have any children.
And one last question: do you ever think about your future?
Always. It’s a way of living. Every decision I make and everything I do comes after asking myself how will I think at 60 or 70 years old. A far away perspective of myself that I would like to satisfy. I want the 60 years old Iulia to be happy with all the decision I took in my life, no matter what happens.
Pororoca is screening now in cinemas all over the country. For more information, access Eventbook
An interview by Laura Mușat