Murina director's statement

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My first memory of him at the age of 4 is vivid due to camcorders. But I do feel the colors of that trip to Šibenik. He was carrying me through the Cathedral. I remember the feeling. Being surrounded by stone lions and ominous statues, on his back felt safe. My father has asked me: “Whose love are you?” - I answered: “I love you, but I am my own love!” That was not the answer he expected, and from it the core problem of our relationship developed – If I gave you life, I can rule it.

MURINA is a story about Julija, a fifteen-year-old girl - about her relationship to her parents, and her need to save them in order to save herself. I am writing starting from the deepest personal turmoil and experiences. The building blocks of this story are based on my relationship with my parents. Our relationship was complex almost from the start; it suffered a lot of pain, due to differences in character, aggression, violence, jealousy.

Starting very young, I was dreamy, and exhibited a resistance to conformity, and this awoke in my father a violent need for control. Contrary to my father, my mother nurtured the sensibility, vulnerability and artistic aspirations, but I always failed to view her as strong since her support would vanish when confronted with my father’s loud bravado. When someone so important to you, as a parent, creator, nurturer, protector, fails to protect, nurture and parent – an insecurity is developed that seeks desperately another anchor, pillar outside of home.

There was a special person in our lives. To me he gave the sense that “the best is yet to come”. He expanded my worlds as a child. With this film I am interested in exploring the time when I desperately desired to escape my father’s tyranny and gave a love reserved for a parent to another man, only to realize that he isn’t perfect either. That is precisely what I am interested in with MURINA, a girl seeking out anchors to survive.

Julija facilitates two men’s rivalry - Julija’s father and Jeronimo, friend of her family she secretly desires to become her father. Julija measures everyone’s intentions and strengths to find her savior outside this family situation, leading her to realize only she can give herself the safety she needs.

The story is placed in the context of the wilderness of a Croatian island mixed with affluence, a world I watched every summer with fascination. Perhaps because it is only in a world that has transcended the existential struggle, and in which the leisure is not a privilege but everyday life, one can develop such psychologically obscure relationships. There is no more radical context in which this story that fights for altruistic emotions such as unconditional love of parents towards children could be set.

My goal is to show the metamorphosis of the roles of the mother, father and the mentor as well as the daughter throughout the journey of three summer days. They are experiencing obstacles and temptations as their rivalry escalates and changes its nature. The purpose of this journey is for Julija to see clearly her Gods and Monsters – and eventually to free herself from them.

Murina is conceived as the sequel to the short film Into the Blue (Berlinale, Generation 14plus 2017. - Special International Jury Mention), developed with the same core team, and in collaboration with screenwriter Christina Lazaridi with whom I collaborated on previous two projects. Into the Blue in its essence is a movie about violence - Violence that, channeled through parental figures, seeds deep emotional pain and turmoil that gradually grows within us, deforming our person. These are the dynamics I am intrigued with and want to continue to explore with MURINA.

Children possess a certain rawness of emotion, often expressed without social or cultural boundaries, restrictions we are trained to follow as we get older. My previous projects dealt with adult themes playing out in the lives of children: vanity (Nonina), disappointment (Christmas Tree), aggression and fear (The Last day of Charley E. Rays), and revenge and survival (Eye for an Eye).

Following discoveries from Into the Blue, Gracija Filipovic, who played Julija in the short will play the main character (Julija) in MURINA as both are built from the same experience and background. I often try to connect experiences from the actors’ own personal lives to those of the characters, creating a sort of bridge from reality to the film. In order to monitor their imaginative process and to gain ideas of how to approach them, I like to ask them to write a diary of their character’s daily life to enlarge their idea of the world of the movie. This process helps me to build a stronger bond with my child actors. They create secrets and subplots to be shared between director and actor on set. This process makes the film set feel as if it is a known world where they have lived before and acting becomes playing – they are “being” their characters and not merely repeating lines. MURINA will speak through movement and blocking and focuses on body language, and therefore this intuitive process is essential to the movie.

In this story, nature exposes the characters, as if on a plate, on a semi-deserted island with very little vegetation. Under the high sun there is no place to hide – they are burning in truth of who they are and pray for night to come to nurture their true desires, to cool off the intensity of the day. Focused on the rough, seaside setting and bodies; the people like animals are placed in the vastness of their world. Nature isolates them from society and permits them to entertain their needs, power struggle and violence.

The underwater world is a place with no words and no dialogue - only actions. As both a physical and metaphysical barrier, it unravels what is under their skin, what is subconscious. The underwater is like a shelter for a child and the lovers, but when it becomes the confrontation ground of unfaithfulness, it is a labyrinth that blocks vision, traps and spills blood. Underwater expresses the characters’ wild nature – as wild animal, as MURINA, the moray eel. It is the subconscious arena of temptations -- of loving and killing.

The overarching vision - set up in Into the Blue and driven by the natural setting and concept of natural instincts continues with MURINA - is the notion that beauty is in the image of freedom. This freedom can bring tragedy, but the tragedy and danger that exist in nature are also what makes it so beautiful. I imagine wide shots with tiny, lean silhouettes in combination with tight close ups, revealing nearly macro details of skin. Extreme high and low angles will underline the power dynamics of the characters: danger, from nature and from the relationships. I would like the camera to express nature objectively and Julija’s inner nature more subjectively. Nature is vast and beautiful in the beginning, at the arrival to the island, as Julija’s and the adults’ nature is seemingly in equilibrium. As the story progresses, nature’s angles become rougher, feeling harsher, more drastic. In parallel, Julija’s mind starts to see differently - she starts to see with acuteness, details on the body, observing them with sensuality, betrayal and revenge. She sees and we see through her, as these emotions escalate within her.

In terms of color, the hues of blue change from those of a warm, sunny day to that of the cold, bloody underwater world. This serves as a visual metaphor of the escalation of Julija’s inner life. To best portray the feeling, the story opens with a look reminiscent of Monet’s Cap DAntibes - Sheer and relaxing, the heat picks up like that of Thiebaud’s colors of summer – the high sun - and close sweaty bodies exposed. Thiebaud’s landscapes express extreme heights and are an inspiring reference of how to express landscape that gradually turns into a threat. Turner is also a great reference for the yellowness and the heat, as well as the seemingly warm, comforting sun which is actually a burning monster; as in “Sunrise with a Sea Monster”. Soon thereafter, the world turns diabolic, from a safe nest to a dangerous net, blocking the character from running away from reality. Ayvazovskiy’s marine art is a perfect inspiration to express the world that escalates and changes towards the end of the story. The way he depicts the sea correlates with how I see the ending of MURINA - characters are in battle, spilling human blood. Nature and humanity bleed into one, as the blueness of the sea merges with human blood.

The reoccurring question in my films is: What happens to your inner violence when your parents betray you? Because this piece originates from experience, I can tap into memories and emotions that allow me to realistically paint this world. Love breathes through violence – and those two emotions are intense and closely related; they easily transform from one to another, and I aspire to investigate them through my characters, and shape my own experiences into their story.

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