rocker is a tale of co-dependence. a non-intrusive, non-judgmental look at the life of a junkie and of his keeper. a father-son sick symbiosis further cemented by a shared love of rock music. the father has to be the do-it-all, responsible anchor to his son’s unstable man child. the father lives his failed dreams vicariously through his band-fronting, heroin-addicted son. the father has to work, beg and steal to satisfy his son’s endless appetite. the film quietly takes you to the joyless underbelly of this anonymous world of failure. the heartbreak is there, in the downward spiral inescapably dragging the lives of people into the oblivion, to a soundtrack of the best of romanian rock. a subtle, heart wrenching film.
below, you have an interview with marian crisan, the writer/director of the film. winner of a palme d’or for his short megatron, rocker is marian’s second feature, after the critically acclaimed morgen.
please tell me about the story and about the inspiration/research behind it.
i started with this topic because i wanted to understand the mechanism of addiction. but i still haven’t found the answer. i felt it could be interesting, that there was something there. on the other hand, i had doubts. it’d been done before. a lot. all the students do films about drugs, right? so i had to see if i had something new to bring to the screen.
i didn’t want to glamourize the drug use: the dilated pupils, the wonderful highs we usually see in films. i do believe that they gloss over the uglier aspects. in real life, dragon chasing is less fun.
so, it all started with a script i was working on, about 4 years ago. at some point, for research, but also because of some sort of writer’s block, i did a borderline illegal documentary with sisu (local hip hop artist with heroin issues). it was very insightful, i could see how things happened first hand. i spent a few days simply filming what he was doing. the final result was supposed to cover a day in his life. it was shown very little, in some festivals. but we will probably use it now, when appropriate, to open for rocker.
in the end, it didn’t help me that much with my story. so i took a break and did morgen in the meantime. when i went back to the script, i changed it. the hip hop/inner city background seemed a little cliche so the story and the characters changed. my initial focus was on the junkie but i realized that had been done and that it led nowhere. it was certainly not my intention to do another trainspotting. during the research phase, i noticed the drama of the parents taking care of their addicted children. i wanted to do a film about that.
why did you decide to focus on the co-dependent?
i considered it was an original story to focus on a parent taking care of his addicted son. it was a different angle. i somehow felt closer to the father character than to the son. i started writing a script about a heroin addicted young man who was fronting an obscure rock band in a small provincial town. the father is some sort of manager, living his young dream vicariously through his drug addict son. so they share a further layer of connection through music, beside their blood ties. this strengthened the credibility: a father who used to be into rock music is not so unusual. so many people have a secret dream of becoming rock stars. moreover, the connection between rock stars and substance abuse is well known. perhaps this further connection between the two may not seem to be a big deal, but it is very important. so this is how the story evolved to become what it is today. if morgen took 2 years in all, rocker took 4. but it is not unusual that i alternate working on several things at the same time.
what about the team?
actor-wise, i tried to find fresh faces. i didn’t want people to associate them with anything else. it’s more credible and more realistic. it’s an old trick and it works. i looked around quite a lot for the son and the father. i was looking for an older man, in his 50s. i wanted him to be the part, not to act like it. and dan chiorean is a real life rocker. he is a theater actor from cluj. i had to tone his theater acting down a little for the shoot.
alin state, playing the son, was at his first film role. it was very demanding for both. when shooting a film, you have to act 50 times the same way. and that is exhausting mentally. it is different than theater. there, it’s a one off.
i loved the photography. it really stood out: very unintrusive and subtle.
i worked with tudor mircea, my dop. we discussed every angle and every movement and light beforehand. we didn’t use mobile cameras, we just stuck with an angle so that the camera would be less present.
i worked with most of the team i used for morgen. we have known each other since university years. tudor mircea, the dop but also the editor, tudor pojoni, and the sound designer, mihai bogos.
you have a palme d’or, a successful film and a new one with great prospects. does it ever get easier to fund your projects?
as a director, i consider funding to be the producer’s job. although the system could do with some improvements, i must say i do find it easier to fund my projects now.
how does it feel to be part of the romanian new wave?
well, it’s a bit vague. and unfortunately it hasn’t been programmatic, like dogma was. there are many common stylistic features but what lacks is a sense of unity. it’s a difficult topic, i think.
how did the shooting go?
we filmed for 35 days, in oradea. we had the full support of the local authorities: unlimited permission to film. and it made things so much easier. i had a very similar experience with morgen. and i believe it’s a great thing. the films end up with this extra layer of real life scenery. and that adds to the depth of the film.
any future plans?
rocker is already in the international film festival circuit. i only have two features, but i noticed how films somehow get a life of their own. they are not identical; they are just like two siblings. they somehow find their own public and distribution niche. for instance, morgen was shown in schools. that would not be possible with rocker. we are happy if the film reaches as many people as possible. we don’t make films for festivals. the festivals are just part of the whole and we are happy to see that they are asking for our film. prizes offer exposure after all. when you get a palme d’or in cannes, doors will open even if they are in america.
also, i am currently working on a new script. it’s a modern take on a classical romanian short story.
thank you very much, marian! good luck with all your efforts!
rocker is currently on romanian screens. do not worry if you do not speak romanian. you can see the english subtitled version at multiplex baneasa. go see a good romanian film!
photo and video credits: rocker