Interview: MURINA Director Antonela Alamat Kusijanović on Her Complex Character Piece
Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović’s debut feature, Murina, is set on a Croatian island, where the adolescent protagonist Julija (Gracija Filipovic) usually fishes underwater with her father Ante (Leon Lucev). The fact that Julija usually observes the young people who have fun near her indicates an entire world is out there, waiting to be explored.
Once the wealthy Javier (Cliff Curtis) – an old acquaintance of Ante and his wife Nela (Danica Curcic) – makes his appearance as he might invest in land, the main family’s reality surfaces. Ante’s repressive actions towards the women in his life become more nasty. (This theme is like a continuation of Into the Blue, Alamat Kusijanović’s 2017 short film also starring Filipovic as a character named Julija.) Javier and Nela are evidently still attracted to each other; while Julija – who is also very much captivated by everything Javier represents – desires more than ever a different, freer life away from the island.
Murina opened theatrically at Metrograph in New York last Friday, July 8, and will be shown at Laemmle Theaters in Los Angeles staring Friday, July 15, I spoke with director Alamat Kusijanović about the complexity of her Cannes-winning character piece (find her responses in the gallery below).
The importance of the location
Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović: I grew up on an island and I knew the dynamics of emotional turmoil conflicted with very dangerous nature, and what that feels like as a teenager. We were like that, just set free on an island running around as kids. It’s something that I tried to depict in my short film (Into the Blue). That’s how I met Gracija and I really liked to continue working with her but put her now in a more stark and dangerous version of that space, that is stripped away from any vegetation and shade and it’s really like my own version of hell, where you are burning and everything is surfacing up; the only place where you can find solace from that heat is where you cannot breath, which is underwater.
The natural architecture is very important to me, it always speaks of characters’ behavior and movement, which essentially defines the rhythm and how people behave between each other and their relationships. I don’t think that this movie could have happened in an apartment, under the air conditioner, because you could always go into the next room and splash some water on your face and cool down. These small tensions would have been gone and it would have never escalated to these levels.