The American actress born in Romania, Elina Löwensohn, remembers about the foreign films she used to see on the black and white TV from the home in Romania and about the rare moments she could eat bananas because of the communist restrictions. After her father died in 1980, she left the country with her mother and moved to the United States. She was 14 years old.
She lived in America for 18 years and became famous in Hal Hartley's movies: "Simple Men" and "Amateur." She had also starred in Steven Spielberg's "Schindler's List," Julian Schnabel's "Basquiat," and Michael Almereyda's "Nadja." She currently lives and works in France.
"Simple Women", the debut feature film of the Italian director Chiara Malta, co-produced by Ada Solomon, highlights Elina Löwensohn in a fictional character, one created with elements from her actual life. The two movie artists met for the second time on the set, after they have worked together for the short film "L'existence selon Gabriel", back in 2015.
“The audience might be immersed in the fantasies, the dreams of a creator, the struggles to bring up from the subconscious a work of art, the challenges along the way, the victory in the end, the fine line between reality and fiction. They will enjoy the humor and the story of friendship between an actress and a director, but mostly they will plunge in the ocean of what it might mean to create”
"Simple Women" had its world premiere in 2019, and is now running in Romanian cinemas too. Next, we have a little talk with Elina Löwensohn about the movies and the art making during pandemic times, with her sharing memories from her childhood spent in Romania.
Working with Chiara Malta for “Simple women”
We met many years ago, Chiara and I, through her husband, Sebastien Laudenbach for whom I did voice over for his animation films. Chiara knew my work from the years with Hal Hartley. She wished to write this project based lightly on my story with the beginning in the cinema for me thanks to Hal Hartley, also my story coming from Romania. But for me the main subject in the film, is the struggle and the exploration of the director trying to realize her film, her work of art. I think all this began about 4 years before the actual shooting, it was long for Chiara, so I forget exactly how much time it took.
The steps towards the actual making of the film were many, Chiara was invited in Villa de Medicis in Rome, with a grant. There she finalized the writing. And afterwards, there were the producers, from Italy and from Romania who found the necessary funding. The film was made in 19 days, which was a very short time for everything that needed to be done between Rome and Bucharest, but she succeeded amazingly at that.
A fictional character vs the real Elina Löwensohn
To me, the character is fictional. There are elements which are from my real life:
My mother a ballet dancer. My father who worked in the government but not as an officer. The meat package given to the gypsy, came from a story of how we used to buy meat on the black market, and a man would come to our home with a leather bag from which he would take out the meat.
The future that was predicted in coffees and cards.
The story of the strawberries in the forest. My home on Strada Mintuleasa.
But the character of Elina in the film is quite different from Elina in real life. That is my own opinion.
The role’s challenges
The challenge was for me, how to create and bring to life this written character which had my name, my beginnings in the cinema with Hal Hartley and all the other elements I mentioned before from my own life…and yet, a character in which I didn’t recognize myself. I think this was difficult for me, because I was lost in an in-between. I tried to hold on to the script as an anchor, to Chiara’s imagination, and in the end I feel that there is some strange and beautiful combination between reality and fiction.
Why people should see ”Simple women”
The audience might be immersed in the fantasies, the imaginations, the dreams of a creator, the struggles to bring up from the subconscious a work of art, the challenges along the way, the victory in the end, the fine line between reality and fiction. They will enjoy the humor and the story of friendship between an actress and a director (Jasmine Trinca I believe does a fantastic job) but mostly they will plunge in the ocean of what it might mean to create.
Memories from your childhood in Romania
Vacations by the Black Sea, vacations in the forest of Cheia, ice cream in the spring, bananas in the winter time, and many movies, foreign movies on the black and white TV we had. Also watching my mother dance in the Bucharest Opera, from the sides. The humor also, the food, and the magic of candles in churches at Easter time.
Your impression about Romania now
Romania has changed a lot since my childhood. I have not spent enough time to give a right answer to this question. But at least, human beings can express themselves, they are not put in prisons for their views, and bananas can be bought anytime and anywhere!
Amazing… just amazing, and I am so proud that such great Romanian films have been produced and released all over the world.
Favorite movies and directors
Cristi Puiu, Radu Jude, Mungiu, Porumboiu, Peter Netzer, Pintilie, Marian Crisan.
The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, The Happiest Girl in the World, Morgen, Pozitia Copilului, 4 luni, 3 saptamini, 2 zile.
Art during pandemic times
I believe that at all times, artists must continuously find strength and belief in the possibility of creation…because it is always difficult. There are always hard times. If they don’t create they would die. I don’t consider actors to be “artists”. Here I talk about the authors/directors who have to find finance in order to be able to do their work. Or visual artists who must find a way to show their work and maybe have benefactors. No matter, if to create is not a vital need, that person will give up in harder or less hard times.
You future projects
After Blue/Dirty Paradise by Bertrand Mandico, his 2nd feature will be in Locarno this summer, and will come out in the cinemas in February of 2022. I play Zora in it.
Right now I am working on a French/German series called Parlament.
In October I begin shooting in Bertrand Mandico’s third feature Conan the Barbarian (an all women cast Conan)
Next year I shall work with Guy Maddin on his next feature.
I consider myself very lucky.