MAN AND DOG (Romania)
Ştefan Constantinescu (1968, Bucharest) is a Romanian filmmaker and artist. He works in mulitple mediums, including film, photography, artist books and painting. He has studied classical painting, film and video at the Bucharest Academy of Art and Film and at the Royal Art Academy in Stockholm. In 2009 he represented Romania at the Venice Biennale with the film Troleibuzul 92. In 2012 his short film Family Dinner screened in Semaine de la Critique in Cannes, and in 2013 his film Six Big Fish premiered in the competition of the Locarno Film Festival.
Doru (44) is a Romanian guest worker in Gothenburg. He struggles hard to give his family back home in Constanta a better life and to realize his dream of building his own house. After four years of working in Sweden, Doru has made considerable sacrifices and savings, but he is now very close to fulfilling his dream.
Suddenly his life takes another turn when his contract is terminated and he is forced to return back to Romania. Unaware of his homecoming, his wife (Nicoleta, 41) and daughter (Eliza, 14) are not at home to greet him as he arrives to Constanta. He goes over to see his mother where he meets Ralf, a rowdy pit bull that his mother has adopted after having suffered repeated burglaries.
Once at home, his family is surprised but delighted to see Doru. Unable to bring the bad news, and aware of the debts that they are in, Doru tells Nicoleta that he is just home for a break. Nicoleta is a bit skeptical about the story, but Doru clings on to the lie in hope of getting his job back before the situation gets out of hand.
Due to the lying, and the fact that he has spent so much time abroad, Doru becomes gradually aware of how alienated he has become to Nicoleta and Eliza. He starts spending more and more time with the dog and less time with his family.
Increasingly distressed by the job situation, and the distance between him and Nicoleta, Doru gets the feeling that something is radically wrong. He needs something or someone to blame and he starts to suspect that Nicoleta is being unfaithful. At the same time, the dog, which has become his faithful friend, also begins to behave strangely and aggressively.
Doru finds out from his daughter, Eliza, that Nicoleta has been flirting with the father of one of his daughter’s classmates, a successful businessman who lives in a grand house by the sea outside Constanta. This brings everything crashing down for Doru and, accompanied by the dog, he heads out to pay his debts and to hold people accountable.
Man and Dog is a narrative that has its starting point in a Europe where labour moves between countries in line with constant bidding for the lowest cost. It is an everyday drama with the ambition to explore what it means to always live in exile – whether at home or away. I want to use this to place the small story in a larger context and put a face to the millions of people who are generally regarded as a faceless mass of migrant workers, statistical data whose existence is noted at best as an embarrassing detail when they perform work in our homes.
Doru is just such a person, a person who is in exile in order to make a living. In Sweden he is just one among many workers with an immigrant background, once back at home he seeks acknowledgement from his family, however, what were once strong ties between them have dissolved as a result of Doru not having participated in their shared life. In the film we see Doru oscillate between different states and
roles: from a humble migrant worker to the family’s macho despot. In both roles we see a man whose actions are governed by fear. A man in his forties who does not feel at home anywhere. Doru is caught between two worlds, both of which reject him, and he becomes increasingly shut inside himself.
At the same time, Doru clings more and more to his dog, but even that relationship turns out to be anything but uncomplicated. For Doru, the dog becomes a surrogate for the warmth that has been lost in his relationship with his wife and daughter, but just as he can’t control his family, he can’t control the dog. When the story escalates, it becomes clear that the dog is a mirror of Doru’s soul – the aggression and unpredictability that has built up inside Doru has also taken root in the dog.
I believe that an individual can accommodate numerous roles and in my films I have tried to work with the complexity of being both a victim and the perpetrator. Doru is both. He is a person who has become superfluous, and we accompany him in the painful process when his identity is dissolving – when he no longer has a role in the world.
In my previous films, the goal has been to find the political dimension of the drama which takes place in a love relationship or a relationship that is intimate in some other way. That ambition remains, but with Man and Dog I want to tweak this a bit and to more clearly address an ongoing political situation in Romania and now in Europe. In short, how does politics influence love in a Europe that has been changed in its foundations? I want to work with a subject aimed at a wider audience than in my previous films, and I want it to be an exciting film filled with pain, absurdity and joy – just like life itself!
With Man and Dog I want to develop my way of working with sound and vision and how they are interconnected. It’s important to me that the film has its own visual style. I have started a collaboration to develop special lenses for the film. We are exploring optics from the 70’s in order put a certain degeneration in to play within the images. I would like to work with an intrusive sort of mise-en-scene, a percussive choreography where a lot of things are going on close to the camera and in which people and objects are getting in the way of each other. The pans and tilts will be very close as well and go in and out of focus. The idea is to have a very intensive imagery that is both physical and abstract.
The ambition is also to find a more dynamic relationship between sound and vision, a relationship that is both subtle and emotionally strong. In my previous films I have used organic, almost inaudible sounds to affect the viewer. I want to continue developing that, but I want to take the sound design a bit further by using spatiality for dramatic effect. More specifically, I want to explore the dramatic possibilities of the action going on outside the frame of the camera, the sound of action that is, which is a natural outcome of the film’s visual style, since a lot of the dramatic action, by necessity, is going on outside the frame.
Screenplay: Andrei Epure, Jörgen Andersson, Ştefan Constantinescu
Producers:Ada Solomon & Diana Paroiu (microfilm, Romania)
Co-producers:Rossitsa Valkanova (Klas Film, Bulgaria), Jörgen Andersson (Doppelganger, Sweden), Nina Frese (Pandora Filmproduktion, Germany)
Shooting locations: Romania, Sweden
Languages: Romanian, Swedish
Estimated running time: 100 min