Cristina Flutur is one of Romania’s most acclaimed actors.
After wowing theatre audiences across Europe for nearly a decade, Cristina made a stunning big-screen debut in Cristian Mungiu’s 2012 drama Beyond the Hills. She has since gone on to appear in a number of films and worked with directors such as Ivano de Matteo, Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego and Semih Kaplanoglu.
Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge caught up with Cristina to talk about her recent projects and reflect upon her career so far.
Q: Valeriu Andriuta’s short film ‘Just One More’ is currently screening at festivals. What can you tell us about this story and your character?
A: My character is Marina, mother of three children, not so happy in her marriage. Together with her husband and the kids, she goes to the countryside to meet her sister for a very important talk. It all looks like a typical family gathering, the kind they did many times before, but this time Marina is carrying a heavy secret, like a silent scream that is devouring her inside, and she feels she needs to share it with her sister, to free herself from the burden…
She is pregnant again, but this pregnancy is not an ordinary one. So the question she has to give answer to is: what to do with the baby?
The film is built around this great tension she lives in and her inner conflict regarding the choice she has to make. It’s a story about a woman’s hard decision about another being’s right to live and how much you can trust someone else to help you in making such a decision, which actually and eventually is yours and yours alone…
Q: You have worked with Valeriu in the past as an actor. What is he like as a director?
A: It was interesting to know this part of Valeriu, the director. We had very deep conversations before the actual start of the shooting and tried to dig as much as possible into the layers of the story and especially inside my character’s universe, to fill up her silences with information, to carefully build this mysterious air around her and keep all the tension inside till the moments of bursting out.
Since he is also an actor he knew how to join me on my way in search of Marina, without losing the overall perspective he had to have upon the whole structure of the film, as a director has. And being in the meantime a wonderful friend.
Q: Jennifer Rainsford’s short film ‘When I Die The World Ends’ is also showing at festivals. What interested you about this project and the chance to work closely with Jennifer and Aris Servetalis?
A: The script written by Jen was very different from all the scripts I had read before that moment. It was not a realistic approach of the story, not following the usual linear way of unfolding, but it was rather a story outside time and space, trying to catch the uncatchable.
Jen was coming from the experimental artistic area and was more interested in exploring the atmosphere and the sensations rather than the concrete details of the story. So the film is a metaphorical poem about the moment of rupture between two people once in love.
Anna-Helen and Dvan could be anyone from any country in any time…She is like the prototype of the woman and he is the prototype of the man…and when they get further and further away from each other and the crack between them happens, the echo is cosmic, it reverberates into the whole universe.
It was really a very special project and working with Jen and Aris, as well as with the rest of the team, was truly a beautiful, hearted and enriching experience.
Q: In 2012, you had a breakout film performance in Cristian Mungiu’s ‘Beyond The Hills’. How do you reflect on that film and your time working with Cristian?
A: Beyond the Hills was my first film ever, so I was extremely curious what it would be like to be on a set and work with Cristian, of course, whose films I loved very much. I felt lucky to get such chance and I just jumped into this big ocean, counting on my years of theatre experience and on my intuition.
The script was incredibly well written and when I read it, I was instantly attracted to Alina, who was to be my character in the film. I understood her story, her reasons, her struggles and I trusted Cristian on the way to living her.
He is amazing to work with. Always calm and kind and giving all the freedom you need and the trust to just be brave and jump, knowing he is there with a sharp attention to every detail and a great intuition of the right measure. This calmness spreads all around the set, to everyone, and you get thus the sensation that you have all the time in the world to search for the truth and the nuances of the scene.
A sweet illusion that helps you find the right tone with alert calmness, while being perfectly aware that on set there is always a race against time.
Q: I believe you studied maths and science at school before going to Alexandru Ioan Cuza University for English literature and language. What drew you to acting?
A: Yes, I was in a class specialized on maths and physics, but I was not keen on either of them. I loved reading and learning foreign languages and the exact sciences were not exactly my thing.
Then I started to go more and more often to theatre performances and one day I just asked myself if I couldn’t do the same as those actors on stage were doing. I was very curious about human psychology and fascinated by emotions and how they appear, in what contexts, so I thought that being in the shoes of someone else would help me find more answers.
I didn’t want to be outside, as an observer of such emotions, but to be living them, understanding another human being from the inside, as if I would temporarily change my identity through empathy. It’s my restless curiosity about the human inner space, about what drives us to make the choices we make and what is different in the other person.
Q: You then went on to gain a reputation as one of the most acclaimed actors in Europe having also starred in theatre productions across the continent. What do you love about the theatre and what did you learn from that period in your life?
A: I still act on stage, but not as much as I used to do before doing my first film. Performing on stage is a very good training for an actor in my opinion. Some of the challenges theatre brings are different than those on set, but the two just beautifully help each other.
Theatre helps improve your discipline and power of concentration and you also experience directly the energy of the audience; the response to what you are delivering is immediate, the dialogue is happening in the moment you perform and you need to be strong in this meeting with the audience, to be able to continue on your line, without making any compromises.
Q: What type of projects interest and fulfill you as an actor?
A: I try to stay open about the types of projects I would love to do, not to put limitations. As long as there is something in a certain project that speaks to me as a human being and I can love my character I am ready to explore it.
And this means I can move from arthouse to mainstream, from realistic to science-fiction, from period dramas to modern, from children stories to experimental and so on, if we were to speak of types of cinema. Though the category is less important. It needs to speak to me on some level.
Q: Jesús del Cerro’s feature film ‘Hawaii’ screened at the Evolution: Mallorca Film Festival last year. The film takes us back to 1988 communist-era Romania. Can you talk about your experience playing Ioana and revisiting this period in Romanian history?
A: I was curious to make some researches about that period, about which I don’t remember much since I was a small child, but which had huge impact about our lives and our mentality, visible even today.
So I did some documentation to understand better how that period looked like and how the institution of Securitate was functioning. And then in this context I placed Ioana, this double-identity woman, a Securitate agent, trained to have no feelings, with a traumatic past, stiff and somewhat frozen, who is woken up by love, but finds herself trapped the moment she wants to follow it.
I perceived Ioana as a brain-washed prisoner of this institution, convinced she works for the benefit of the country, till the moment she meets Andrei and love, a feeling she has never experienced before, makes a crack in this belief and she attempts to escape. A woman who cannot go and free herself, but who cannot stay anymore either.
Q: What can we expect from you in the future? Do you have any ambition or upcoming projects you can share with us?
A: I have finished shooting for a Romanian feature called Carturan, the first feature film by Liviu Sandulescu, and for an Italian feature which is called Villetta con ospiti, directed by Ivano de Matteo. Both of them will hopefully be ready to see the world this year.
Title photo by Vlad Birdu