The Daily Pluk talks to the directors about their inspirations, the creative process and the making of their films. Adrian Sitaru’s Illegitimate is naturalistic experiment, in which he combines elements from documentary and fiction to tell a story about forbidden love between siblings. Twists and turns all take place during highly vivacious family conversations at the kitchen table.
Patriarch Victor (Adrian Titieni) shares his thoughts during a family dinner in Bucharest. Close-ups of the facial expressions of his four kids show them listening intently. Father’s monologue is disrupted when the topic of conversation changes to his possible involvement in the Ceaucescu dictatorship in Romania in the seventies and eighties. His name has surfaced in documents that insinuate he told on women who were trying to get an abortion. Victor feels that these illegitimate deeds are quite innocent. This defeatism frustrates the children, who start to wonder I they were even wanted by their parents.
Later on twins Romeo (Robi Urs) and Sasha (Alina Grigore) commit another illegitimate deed: they have sex. Sasha becomes pregnant and realizes that, in contrast to the women her father betrayed, she has the option to get an abortion. Will she go through with it?
Why are the majority of the scenes situated at the kitchen table? Is this a typically Romanian thing?
“This is mostly because of a lack of budget. Consequently I had to devise how we could make the film as cheaply as possible. Also, this kind of film in which the action encircles a table has become a cinematic form. And it’s true that we like to gather in the kitchen with friends. It’s the one place where we talk, smoke, drink and fight together.”
Was this lack of budget the reason to choose a naturalistic approach?
“The film’s particular style is the outcome of a long process. I wanted the script, which was written by Aline Grigore, to be conceived in a totally different manner compared to fiction film. I wanted it to be like real life. During eighteen months I gave the cast several goals, and gave them information about their characters. Once we started filming they became a close family, and they stayed in character the whole twelve days. So Illegitimate ended up being a documentary with fictional characters.”
How much was improvised?
“We had some outlines and clues, but I would only discuss the camera angles with the director of photography. The actors would know the space where we were going to shoot, and it was up to them how they wanted to behave, which of their characters’ values they preferred to act on. By working this way already during the rehearsals there started to form a certain exuberance.”
What about the incest? Is it the love between Sasha and Romeo that is illegitimate, or the sex?
“In any case this is an interesting and controversial subject. For me the whole film is about love – a complicated love story like Romeo and Juliet. But Illegitimate is about a forbidden love between siblings. I find it remarkable that you can read about abuse of a father of his daughter context, but that you can hardly find texts about this kind of love. Maybe in the future, modernized laws and the evolution of feelings will help us to deal with these problematic dilemmas.”
Speaking of laws: how did the strict law against abortion during the reign of Ceausescu influence this film?
“Abortion was illegal up until 1990. Some Romanians who saw Illegitimate and were born in the seventies like me, asked their parents afterwards if they were wanted. Fortunately my birth was planned, in contrast to lots of my friends who were not wanted. This is a very traumatic experience that is still hard to talk about.”