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About this film

The burden of routine. Its heaviness, its suffocating nature that challenges us. And yet, it has a certain degree of attraction that lures us in, as it lures in the two characters of Ion Indolean’s Discordia. A young couple, dwarfed by the room’s high ceilings, by their spaciousness and by their deafening silence, goes about its day-to-day activities. The director from Romania observes them quietly with his stationary camera, his composition reminding the viewer of paintings in which people play only a minor role. Indolean’s steadfast observation is an homage to Chantal Akerman’s classic Jeanne Dielman, and yet it treads new ground, takes its own ways and lets the suspended images linger in our minds.

Nadin Mai (tao films)

Interview with the Director
Ion, welcome to tao films. It is a pleasure to have Discordia on board. I think yours is one of the first films I have received after the call for films, so it’s great to have you finally with us. Can you tell me what brought you to filmmaking in general, and to Discordia in particular?

Hello and thanks a lot for your interest. Maybe it’s strange, but what got me into filmmaking were American films. I think almost all of us start with them and after a while – when we saw all those masterpieces and say we don’t have anything left to see – we discover auteur cinema. I discovered Chantal Akerman when being in film school and she influenced me a lot in that period. It was a period of personal solitude and the mood from Discordia was my general mood: a lot of silence, very few social gatherings, time spent with me, with my mind. Me and my mind. I wanted to share these emotions, this way of interiorizing the world, so Discordia was born.

Something that immediately caught my eye in the film was the heavy art book almost right at the beginning. We are in a large spacious room with the book being on a pedestal on the left hand side of the frame. It is in the background, and yet I find it quite imposing. It gives the room a certain power, a certain atmosphere.

I’m glad you say this because that book was important for us in the process of shooting. The crew tended to go through it between the scenes; it is a very interesting album. Inside the film’s story, it weights a lot, because it is one of the objects which never changes. From what I recollect, we see it three times and each time it is opened at the exact same pages. This adds to the narrative in the sense that these two people like their exact routine and won’t change it a bit. I wanted to tell this story through little pieces, little details which converge to some kind of discord between their inner world and everything surrounding it. They are simply misfits, but misfits in a reality which is not right. At least, not for them, because they hate chaos.

I would like to speak about the role of the characters. Normally, characters play the main role. They’re the ones who push the narrative forward. Discordia is, however, also very much about space. What characterises your film is the frontal camera position and the recording of empty spaces. They’re not at all like empty landscapes, which we usually see in slow films. They’re more like wide, cold habitats that render the characters almost minuscule at times.

Yes. Yes! I’m glad some people see this, because it was my intention. I pictured this film as something very septic and out of the real world. They live in a bubble. They are surrounded by objects, but it seems these objects don’t have a practical attribute, they are there only for their aesthetics and whenever they get changed – especially by accident – something brakes in their inner self. The two characters are objectified, too. They breathe, but they are almost dead. They don’t really live their lives and carry this big burden, of being too rigid, too severe with themselves. Being a film in which the camera isn’t moving, I wanted to create a series of paintings, in the spirit of “Shirley: Visions of Reality” directed by Gustav Deutsch after Edward Hopper’s paintings. In the same time, Discordia is homage to Chantal Akerman’s “Jeanne Dielman”.

Just as oppressing as the empty rooms is the silence between the woman and the man, which predominates most of the film. How did you conceive of the film in the first place? Did you know from the beginning that it would be almost a silent film, a film in which the images speak more than the characters?

Yes, I knew from the very beginning, because it was important for my concept of living in the moment that I made the film. Their tendency for silence is intensified and gains weight because of their argument occurring in the first evening. She makes such a big thing out of almost nothing – a simple discussion about something which doesn’t really matter – because she can’t stand to have these changes in her routine. On the other side, he is not so rigid, but has to subordinate himself to these rules, because they have existed like forever. Sometimes, we tend to be so indoctrinated that we forget where it all started from. The two of them don’t usually disagree and the hierarchy in the house has to be maintained. She can’t stand being shouted at, because she expects to have only these civilised, cold talks. She can’t have an intimate conversation and she tends to take refuge behind a professionalised attitude. I think it is very hard to be like that. I don’t see me being like that, especially not now, after some years have passed and I opened my mind and soul to things I don’t understand or which I normally don’t tolerate. But the truth is I like silence, especially when nothing important has to be said. I don’t like people who speak too much, because they become annoying and strenuous. So I have to say that I am a little bit like her. That’s why I created this character and not another one. I think that the authentic characters are the ones you can relate to – at least on a basic level.

There is quite a bit of movement in your film, and yet I believe it is a film about a standstill, about a stoppage, something that seems to have come to an end. This is also expressed through your static camera. Of course, this poses the questions as to the ways in which you deliberately use certain aesthetics in order to express this or that more forcefully. How conscious are you of this on set?

Sometimes, I am too conscious and this works against me, because the ineffable will only occur when you let things from their leash. So, I fight with me all the time to let it go, to let things happen. Regarding Discordia, I was a kind of control freak. It was my first experience with the camera – until then I had just written film criticism – and I was a little afraid not to let things run out of control. So, tension appeared inside the team, which helped the mood of the film. I wanted to control everything and maybe now I would have another attitude. In fact, I had another kind of approach afterwards. But I’m still very conscious, I still like to have full control of the process, but – and this is a piece of advice for other colleagues – I let people think they can do whatever they want and intervene only when I feel things really have to be done in another way. This helps the team, from my perspective, because they feel more important and they feel they really contribute to the process. I always liked dialogue, but some years had to pass until I was really able to discuss, to find the right tone. I’m not saying I truly found it, because we can always be a better version of ourselves, but I think I’m on a right track regarding this aspect.

To put your film into a context, it is worth mentioning the current role of cinema in Romania. It’s one of the countries of which quite a lot has been written recently, this new Romanian wave. What do you think about this, and would you say that filmmaking is being encouraged in your country?

This is a really tough question. Film is encouraged, but I don’t think debutants are. The Ministry of Culture, through the Romanian CNC (National Cinema Centre), organises these script contests. But the criteria are helping only the established directors, producers etc. We can’t compete with them, because we don’t have a good rating – which can be achieved only by having your films selected in big festivals. So, we are in a vicious circle, because the big fish becomes bigger and the small one just dies. The Romanian New Cinema was very important for the development of our industry, but we still don’t have a real industry. I think a real industry is made by those solid multiplex movies, which have public success and discuss something more than some silly gags (if comedy) or some superficial conflicts (if action or drama). And we don’t really have them. Yes, we have these acclaimed auteurs and some younger directors who tend to pastiche them, and on the other side we have some very modest wannabe commercial films. For me, these two aesthetics don’t work anymore. One belongs to the past and the other is just weak. I try to find a new voice, my voice, the voice of my generation, which doesn’t live anymore in this transition from communism to EU integration, an important sub-theme for the Romanian New Cinema.

The year is coming to a close. Will you be releasing a new film next year?

Yes, I shot a feature in the summer and hope to have a final cut next year. Its title is Toni & Friends. If Discordia is a very intellectualist movie, aesthetically and narratively, this new one is intended to be much more friendly with the regular public, but this doesn’t mean it does not have some debates which concern me, as well as a risky aesthetic. The film’s form is somewhere between documentary and fiction. It is another experiment, but one which I hope will have some commercial success, too, because the story is dense and has a series of conflicts, so you can watch it on the first layer, just for the story, or you can go deeper and notice the nuances I worked with.

Thank you very much for this interview.