Câini (Dogs): an interview with Bogdan Mirica

Film still of Câini (Dogs) © Iulia Weiss

An editor, novelist and copywriter by training in his native Romania, Bogdan Mirica began his directing career in 2011 with the short film Bora Bora which met with popular acclaim at the Festival d’Angers. With Câini (Dogs), his first feature film, he confirms his status as a director and offers us a fresco of corrupt human nature, in which the protagonists are engaged in a war with their inner selves.

What inspired you to begin work on this film?

There wasn’t anything in particular that triggered the idea. There was a feeling, an atmosphere that I’ve always carried with me – ever since my childhood at my grandma’s in rural Romania. Sometimes, during the summer nights I’d witness these savage fights between the locals. They’d use all kind of improvised weapons from a bike’s chain to planks or axes. And I remember that what puzzled me the most was not the violence but the randomness of it. These guys didn’t need a reason to enter a fight – they just wanted to see who would come out on top. For all their savagery and lack of morals, there was a sort of ancestral purity about their acts. I can still remember that feeling. That’s what Dogs is all about.

Tell us about your working method and the atmosphere on set.  Any anecdotes to share?

I don’t necessarily follow any strict method when shooting a scene. Every scene has its own life and I actually enjoy that unpredictability. Things tend to fall into place – if you pay enough attention to them and if you stick to your main idea (by idea I mean your feeling, style, or choice of storytelling).  The only variable you can’t control entirely is the acting. The acting has a climax and then usually decreases. You have to pay attention to it and take a break once the actor has passed that point.  It’s true that before each shooting I work very thoroughly on the shot list with my DP – but once on set, we like to challenge that and adapt to whatever's happening in front of us.

Tell us a little about your actors.

The first thing I looked for in all the actors was a certain physicality. Something crude, something poetic – making them larger than life in a way. I wanted them as archetypes, more than anything.

What are your views on the state of the film industry in your country?

Romanian movies can barely survive in a market flooded with American blockbusters, while cinemas are disappearing every day. It would be a fascinating cultural, economic and social case study if it wasn’t so sad.

What sources of artistic inspiration do you draw on in your work?

There are so many and they're all so intertwined that it's really hard to single anything specific out. But if I were to narrow it down, it’s mostly music and literature. Nick Cave. Warren Ellis. Cormac McCarthy. Romanian folk tales imbued with a sense of fatalism. It’s not the narrative that inspires me as much as the emotion.