I grew up in the countryside, under the direct influence of time and nature. It repeated like clockwork, but changed breathlessly. So as far as I can remember, I wanted to capture the moment, so I wouldn’t forget it. I drew, I wrote, I kept cherry tree flowers in books, I took photographs. But the moving light of the moment always escaped me. I believe light is essential to memory like no other sense. We unconsciously know the density and shape of shadows for every hour, for every season, and we can recognize it in film and be instantly flooded by our own sense of truth. I believe cinema’s strength lies well beyond storytelling. It is as universal as a whole race’s worth of memory of light.
I remember my early fascination of the lingering effect, the first impression of real life after walking out of the cinema. And I didn’t just love movies, I always thought, how cool the people that made them must feel.
The first time I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker was when I saw Jean Jacques Annaud’s L’Ours. But that was like wanting to be an astronaut, because I was 4 years old. I watched it every Saturday morning for a long time and never got bored. I decided to be a cinematographer when I saw In The Cut (it’s not Nosferatu, I know). Although the Tilt-Shift lens lost the charm it had when I was 14. I always try to keep in mind it’s all just a game and I’m the one playing and I can change the rules anytime.
You study cinematography at UNATC. How does this institution influence your art?
UNATC was my dream university for a long time, so I knew exactly what I wanted out of it. But after I got in, it shaped me quite differently than I had expected. I got the chance to work with film stock, which was great, but on tight budgets that pushed me to the limit of my creativity and my nerves. It was tough until I understood that I shouldn’t try and make a film out of every exercise and I should sometimes experiment just for the sake of experimenting. Looking back, I think it was a good learning process, because I learned how to organize everything and how to shape what I wanted in the limits of what was demanded and what was available, with as little compromise as possible.
What fascinates you in analogue techniques? What does black and white mean to you?
First of all, I think black and white is a great learning tool for a cinematographer. It makes you conscious of light and more importantly, of shadow. And at its core, cinema is light and shadow and everything in between. Colors can sometimes be misleading, because they’re so life-like. But with black and white, you get the feeling of movement and of textures. You get the raw power of suggestion, the basis for every type of language. It’s very empowering. I think black and white has infinite potential, given the right project.
I grew up taking photos on film, bending it to its destruction sometimes, just for the thrill of it, so analogue will always have its magic for me. The decision making, the waiting before you see what you got, the irreversibility of analogue teaches you to be responsible and forces you to achieve a level of knowledge and discipline close to second nature. But of course, I’m preaching now, I’ve yet to feel comfortable working on film
But putting everything aside, what fascinates me the most with analogue is its organic and chaotic quality. Timing becomes precious rather than random. Feeling time pulsing and the power of immortalizing it teaches you to fully respect the moment.
What are your views on the world of cinema shifting into the digital age?
I think cinema is too expensive an art form to not take in account the economic aspects and in this sense the digital revolution was inevitable. It currently reflects the global state of affairs – bigger, faster, cheaper, now. It’s just sad it happened too soon, before digital could reach its full potential and truly rival analogue. Ideally, I think analogue and digital should work together, because analogue is still the best medium to shoot on and if it’s treated as a raw foundation and not an output, the digital postproduction could step up the game even more than it does now.
All major steps in cinema – the addition of sound, the addition of color and now the digital era and 3D – were first brought on as a marketing tool, and they were greeted by filmmakers with skepticism and followed by a reevaluation of the film language. As a technician, I do care about the medium I shoot on, but at the end of the day, they’re just tools and the focus should be placed on the best suitable medium to tell stories.
Do you have ambitions or plans to direct films or is your art solely based on the image?
Having a background in painting, I was used to working on my own and to not bend my ideas around someone else’s vision, which is terrible for a cinematographer. I find it extremely hard to get motivated by a subject that doesn’t truly move me and I often have a very precise idea of how a certain project should look, which have to adjust aftewards. But at the same time, I feel totally powerless in front of actors, so I probably wouldn’t be a good director. My directing “ambitions” so far have come from an intuitive feeling of how a certain film should feel and they have been almost solely based on atmosphere, which I’m obsessed with at the moment.
I have immense respect for a director’s work, for his or her ability to not only know the big picture, but to be able to convey it to the entire team and make everyone believe in the same thing. I definitely want to try directing properly one day. Until then, my dream is to find a director I can completely trust and who trusts me back.
What does short film mean to you? A way of making films on a low-budget, or a narrative form which suits your visions better than features?
I love short films. Their limited time frame challenges me and makes the ride precious. The rhythm of time is so intense, it’s almost like a photograph or a heartbeat. You can’t afford to waste a second. I have so much more to learn in this field, especially because it’s a very bendable form of cinema, and I don’t see myself working on a feature for now. But I do dream of the big-screen-one-hour-and-a-half experience for the future.
Who or what inspires your work?
I rehearse shots for future showreels as I ride the bus listening to music, so there’s that. The smell of fresh air, the eerie realism of dreams, reflected light, direct light, sunlight, cloud light, fire light, flashlight, all types of darkness, the pulse and guts of Lubezki’s shots, Cronenweth’s smoke, everything Roger Deakins, Gondry’s organic and intuitive portray of memory, the power of nature and the human soul captured in that one moment before the storm in Van Gogh’s Wheat Field with Crows, the conversations between Walter Murch and Ondaatje, Olga Grushin’s cinematic attention to the details that build a man’s life, James Meek’s love for his characters and their deep humanity in The People’s Act of Love, Cormac McCarthy’s way of speaking about the apocalypse of the world (The Road) or of one man (Sunset Limited), my cinematography professor’s belief in the power of the dusk, my mother’s love for haiku and my father’s absolute faith in research and truth.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? What is your goal or dream?
In case we all survive 2012, I’d like to go abroad for a while and completely change the scenery, take life in my own hands and see where it takes me. Hopefully, in 10 years’ time I’ll have the luxury of working as a cinematographer only for projects that challenge me. Because I never want to get comfortable and make films just for a living. And I want to meet Roger Deakins.
Check out Anda Puscas’s profile on daazo.com: http://daazo.com/anda-pu_ca_
text: Attila Mocanu
photo: Marius G. Mihalache Michel, Rusu Ionut