I was interested in the transformation and socio-human decay of the priest Dragoș, who seems not to fully understand his own life

He had met the director Octav Chelaru before during the filming of “Două lozuri”, he was part of the creative team of the film and they collaborated excellently. In the second artistic meeting, Alexander Papadopol I met him as the director of the movie “Balaur” and they got along very well again.

Octav Chelaru’s debut feature film, inspired by real events, tells the story of Ecaterina (Mălina Manovici), a religion teacher and priest’s wife, who ventures into an extramarital relationship with Iuliu (Sergiu Smerea), one of her students. On the other side is Dragos, the deceived priest, who can be perceived as both a victim and an aggressor. And for Alexandru Papadopol, the one who plays him, one of the challenges was precisely not to judge him, but to understand him. Even to empathize with him.

“I perceived him as a middle-aged man, emotionally crushed by his mother as a child. I was impressed by his mistaken belief that he is infallible as a private person, just because he is a priest, so he represents, without a doubt, a moral authority . Life proved him quite wrong.”

Alexander Papadopol continues to talk about the experience he had during the filming of “Balaur” and about his character, the priest Dragoș. The film is playing in theaters across the country from September 9.

In the cast of the movie “Balaur”

The context was a classic one, namely, I was called to the casting. Octav Chelaru (the director) and Domnica Cârciumarul (the casting director) had made a list of actors, on which I was also honored. After that there were tests with other actors called for other roles. Most of the time I saw myself with the actors who were supposed to play Ecaterina and Florin, respectively my wife and my child.

Everything had to fit in such a way that they and I could make a family in the film that seemed believable. On the other hand, the choice of those who play in the film is a vital thing for a director, a primordial element, precisely because any indication, any initiative must be translated to filming through the actor and, therefore, trust in the availability of the latter must be total.

How did this creative collaboration go?

I have known Octav since the filming of “Doua Lozuri”, he being part of the creative team. We collaborated then and now excellently. In such cases, almost everything is related to a good professional connection, more precisely, to a successful film and honest work on the set. Filming went very well, even though it was a pandemic. We, the actors, got along perfectly with the other departments and with each other. There were no unnecessary conceits or cheap conceits, and always such a good atmosphere is due to a director who knows what he wants to say with the film, who brings people together for a valid idea and who made a balanced casting when he had to.

The script of the film

The story of the script starts from a real fact. This is a really important thing. Then, technically speaking, it’s a very cohesive script and full of useful information for all the characters. I have to say that the priest Dragoș, the one I embody, offers a lot of biographical data right inside the script. Upon careful reading, you can figure out where he lives, what illness he suffers from, how he gets along with his parents, how he was raised, how he educates his son, what his social position is, how he is perceived by the community and much more. I assume that the public will be attracted to this story, which acquires at many moments accents of a true thriller.

How is Dragos, your character

Dragoș, the priest who does not have the name of a saint, can be perceived both as a victim and as an aggressor. I had the duty not to judge him, not to accuse him, but to understand him. In this way I gained a deep empathy towards his problems and towards the terrible trial to which life indirectly subjects him. I only perceived him as a middle-aged man, emotionally crushed by his mother as a child, with a life predetermined by his authoritarian mother and approved by his father, a gentle man, but without will and authority. I was also moved by the fact that he was suffering from diabetes and this disease was slowly and surely killing him. And, last but not least, I was impressed by his mistaken belief that he is infallible as a private person, just because he is a priest, so he is, without a doubt, a moral authority. Life proved him quite wrong.

The most important directions you received during filming

I don’t remember a specific indication, but I can say that I had an excellent collaboration with the director and fellow actors because for almost a month I rehearsed several hours a day. I am a follower of rehearsals and I think that for the film they must be more intense, precisely because there is the pressure on the set of the limited filming time, a change in the weather or, if necessary, the lack of film, which, as a rule, in Romanian films is a real problem. In general, as many films as I have worked on, the instructions were about fine adjustments or an adaptation to the situation in the place, for the simple fact that in the rehearsals the structure of the role and the correct relationships with the other characters were already established. Another vital element when filming is the text, which must be known perfectly, just to be able to juggle the small changes that may occur.

Events from the set, which are worth telling

I think there’s a lot to tell, but I’m thinking now about the last days of filming, days when the end of the film was being built. It was very, very hot those two days and we had to shoot in full sun. For me it was a little worse because I was dressed in that cassock, or as the priests call it, reverend. Only then do you realize how good it is to have a professional team to help you and understand the effort that the actors make in some cases.

Audience reactions and criticism

So far, the film has enjoyed the appreciation of the viewing public. It’s quite difficult for me to praise the film, because it might seem arrogant…but the reactions have been exceptional. I say it with all modesty and responsibility. We have been with the film to many national and international festivals, now we have just returned from a promotional tour and I can say that the audience has come in large numbers and many of them have been impressed by the story. We are going to see if all this wave of sympathy will turn into a concrete present of other viewers in other cinemas, in other cities. 🙂

What do you hope people are left with after seeing this film?

I want those who see the film to be left with the feeling that they have witnessed an emotional story.

What did you get out of this project?

My perception of priests is, let’s say, classic. I am Orthodox, and I respect those who serve in the church, for what they represent and for the teaching they preach, even if, sometimes, as people they also make mistakes. That’s why in this role I was interested in the transformation and socio-human decay of the priest Dragoș, who seems not to fully understand his own life. And because of a way of thinking different from those close to him, he becomes a victim.

What’s next for you?

Oooh…so…the season begins at the Odeon Theatre, where I play in about eight shows. Now we are resuming, after two years, Titanic Vals, an exceptional show, directed by Alexandru Dabija, which was sold-out at every performance. Then follows “Svejk” and “The Fugitives”, also directed by Alexaxandru Dabija, “Chocolate Soldier” by Andrei Șerban, “Three Generations” directed by Dinu Cernescu, “Delirium” directed by Vlad Massaci, “Persona” directed by Radu Nica and “Liniste, sarut, action” directed by Peter Kerek, a show with which we exceeded 100 performances and which continues to play to full houses.

Then you can find me in several independent theater projects, such as “Funia”, “Libretto Solitudine” and “Libretto Impostura”, all directed by Matei Lucaci Grunberg and “Masacre” directed by Mihai Bratilă. But, at the end of September, filming begins for the second part of the comedy “Două Lozuri”, directed by Paul Negoescu, where I play alongside my colleagues Dorian Boguță and Dragoș Bucur.


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