CANNES–A poet, a romantic, and a stranger in a strange land, Adrian is a Romanian immigrant working as a night watchman at a car dealership in Cordoba. After leaving his old life behind, he falls in love with a Spanish singer who offers him a shot at reinvention. But when a money-making scheme by his shifty boss goes awry, Adrian himself has to face the consequences, threatening to put his very life in jeopardy.
“Parking” is the latest feature from Tudor Giurgiu, the veteran Romanian director and founder of the Transylvania Intl. Film Festival. Inspired by Marin Mălaicu-Hondrari’s “Apropierea” (Closeness), which was a bestseller after its 2010 release in Romania, it stars Mihai Smarandache, along with rising Spanish star Belén Cuesta, Ariadna Gil (“Pan’s Labyrinth”), and two-time Goya Award winner Luis Bermejo. “Parking” will open the 18th edition of the Transilvania fest, which bows May 31 in Cluj, Romania.
Giurgiu spoke to Variety in Cannes about Mălaicu-Hondrari’s novel, the real-life events that influenced “Parking,” the importance of premiering the film in his hometown, and the responsibility he feels toward the next generation of Romanian filmmakers.
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What about Marin Mălaicu-Hondrari’s life story inspired you to make “Parking”?
The author was a crazy guy who decided to leave Romania and go without any money to the south of Spain, just because he was so inspired by the Chilean author Roberto Bolaño, and Bolaño had this crazy attitude of going to Spain and trying to do all kinds of jobs. He was a bodyguard, he was a night watchman. I think there is something with writers that sometimes when you reach your midlife crisis, maybe you have to do crazy things. And [Mălaicu-Hondrari] actually ended up in Cordoba with 20 euros in his pocket, without having a place to sleep or a job. I was very intrigued by this decision to reinvent yourself and leave everything behind, and why you would do this. Where’s your home? Why don’t you miss family?
It raised a lot of questions because I remember, at that time, when Romania was not in the E.U., immigrating was a tough thing to do. A lot of people left the country for Spain and for Italy, mostly because they wanted to make more money. With this character, he’s a different immigrant, because was not leaving to make money. He was just trying to immerse in a new project, he was trying to discover the joy of writing. As filmmakers, as creatives, I feel that we have to have the curiosity of exploring some territories that are totally unknown for us, and that we don’t understand. I was not able to fully understand this guy, and what are the reasons for him to make such a desperate gesture.
It has a different look and tone from your last movie, “Why Me?”.
I wanted to shift a bit from the previous film, which was a political thriller rooted in Romanian social justice. I wanted to do a bit of melodrama and change the style. The hardest thing for me was to avoid the clichés and the stereotypes of people coming to shoot in Spain. Of course it would be nice to shoot in the south, Andalusia, flamenco. I realized that these are such common parts, so I tried to make a very intimate drama with people reaching their midlife crisis and being totally unhappy and not knowing how to cope and how to deal with their failures.
Interspersed throughout the film are short, grainy, 8mm interludes that seem to complement the main narrative, without really being a part of it. What was behind that creative choice?
It was a decision between myself and my DoP, Marius Panduru. We thought that sometimes we keep in our minds recollections of what touched our memory. It’s not just about flashbacks, but certain places, certain moods, which were things coming from our past, from our childhood. And I thought that it would be nice to shoot them in a different way than the other part of the movie.
They add an element of nostalgia and longing to the story of a stranger in a foreign land. How did you get into the head of a character like Adrian?
[“Closeness” author] Marin [Mălaicu-Hondrari] told me that being alone in a foreign country, a foreign culture, the mentality of an immigrant was that you would not be able to succeed. You would always be afraid of authority. For him, it was obvious that he was somehow doomed to be a loser, and he was so much affected by this lack of confidence. When a woman came into his life, it was like, ‘Finally something positive can happen to me.’ And of course, being disconnected from his family, from home, he felt very insecure and very unsure what to do with his life.
If we talk about Romania, having millions of these people leaving the country in the last 15 years, I think it’s a major problem in the country now. Families are being torn apart, kids are growing up without their fathers and mothers. I tried somehow to encapsulate in this main hero, who is in a way an anti-hero, because he’s not a doer. He’s not somebody who has a mission. He’s passive. He has memory, and he knows what he would love to do, but he’s unable to do it. He’s a poet, and poets don’t have their feet on the ground.
As a native of Cluj, and the founder of that city’s Transilvania Intl. Film Festival, how does it feel to present your latest feature to your hometown crowd on the festival’s opening night?
It was a joint decision which we had with Mihai Chirilov, the artistic director. Mihai actually suggested it because our opening is in the open air, and I was born here. People in Cluj treat me like their wunderkind. And we thought that just because our opening is such a popular event, it would be a nice reward to all the people who helped me. Even though it’s a bit awkward. [Laughs.] We thought it would be a nice gesture. Also I feel very obliged, because the city and the people have helped me so much in my career, and with the festival, so I thought it was a nice exchange. I’m very excited and emotional. The film is very intimate, it deals with emotions, it deals with very special feelings. It’s not a popular comedy, so I’m very curious how 3,000 people might react.
Over the course of your career, you’ve been part of a generation of filmmakers who have launched Romania on the international stage. Where do you see your country’s industry going from here?
There are more and more directors going genre. In the last few years, there were three or four popular comedies financed totally independently, guerrilla style, done on a very small budget. But they’re doing well at the box office, they’ve recouped some money, they’ve sold to Netflix. It’s a good sign that Romanian cinema became closer to the Romanian public, and I think that’s a good sign for the future. It will change.
How do you see yourself juggling your roles as someone who’s both a director, and the head of a festival that’s instrumental in supporting young Romanian filmmakers?
I’m really still very passionate and have such a great joy for doing the festival with my colleagues. It’s such a unique and great event. I always feel that we have to help young talents to grow, because this thing never happened to me or my generation. Mostly I created this festival because there was not any kind of platform for stimulating co-productions. We had to run to CineMart [at the Intl. Film Festival Rotterdam] or some other co-production market just to present our projects. I feel that to keep the festival running is a top priority, but I would not neglect my film projects when I find some great idea, or when I’m really touched by some stories or by some scripts. I’m not working like Woody Allen on a yearly basis, but when there is a story that I really feel the need to tell, I will do it.