Natalia Curea is a New York-based film director and screenwriter. She was born and raised in Moldova, and moved to New York where she studied Film and Video Production. While still a student, Curea has written and directed several short fiction films, featuring protagonists with inner conflicts.
In 2020 she released the 19 minutes film Jump, which won numerous awards and accolades at various film festivals throughout Europe and the United States. Set in New York City, the film tells the story of Alfred, a middle-aged party clown who leads a somewhat artistic life, but it’s not quite what he imagined in his youth. As he gets older, Alfred begins to question whether he has failed to achieve his dreams, and compares himself to a former college friend who seems to have it all.
In this film, writer-director Natalia Curea explores the frailty of the human condition and the disconnection with the self.
Hello Natalia, what has been the biggest inspiration behind directing Jump?
Hello! The inspiration for Jump came at a time when I was listening to a lot of classical music. Among all the music, Alfred Schnittke’s “Life with an Idiot” inspired me to write something dramatic. The song’s dark-tones helped me visualize the overall aesthetic of the film. I knew I
wanted it to be slow-paced and have a poetic feel to it. The image of a clown, aimlessly walking the streets of Manhattan while contemplating his own shortcomings, revealed itself to me powerfully. I write most of my scripts with the music playing in the background.
Hollywood and movies from Asian countries have associated failure with a clown again and again. What’s the reason for that according to you?
I think this association happens because clowns don’t fit into conventional behaviors society accepts. Because they see the world from a different perspective, clowns are considered outcasts; an idea that’s been perpetuated since Shakespeare and before. So, when you see a
clown being portrayed as a failure on TV and movies, you see a reflection of how society views them. I personally find clowns to be fascinating characters with internal dramas to be exposed to an audience. This was my attempt with this movie. My focus was on the character’s internal crisis as he does not consider himself successful.
Is there any particular influence of Todd Philip’s Joker on Jump?
The similarities between my film Jump and Todd Philip’s Joker are very superficial. At the center of both films, we have a desperate clown trying to make sense of the world. However, each film explores something different. Todd Phillips touches on the subject of mental illness, chaos, and even violence. Jump is about a middle-aged party clown, who is experiencing an existential crisis. It’s an odd coincidence about the timing of Joker and Jump. I wrote the screenplay prior to Joker’s release. We had most of the scenes already filmed, but due to some reshoots, and a longer than anticipated editing process, the film was delayed and came out much later.
Why Jump and not any other name?
Jump is an abstract title which points to Alfred’s crisis, and his leap of faith to find a way out of his unhappiness. The fact that the connection between the title and Alfred’s condition is ambiguous is meant to intrigue the viewers, leaving it open to their interpretation. I tried to play
with the literal and figurative meanings of the word “jump.”
Why does the little girl play the role of the clown’s subconscious?
The little girl plays the protagonist’s subconscious to give us an honest interpretation of his thoughts. There is a certain directness when it comes to children, making her a reliable narrator. Even though she doesn’t address the audience directly, when she has a conversation with Alfred, his darkest, unfiltered thoughts are revealed. Her bullying forces Alfred to take a moment, step back and examine his life. A mirror to his grief, the little girl is there to remind him of his unaccomplished dreams. She pushes him to let go of his past misfortunes, getting him on a possible fresh start in life.
You’ve used a close shot near the end of the movie. Have you intended to celebrate failure?
The close shot near the end of the movie emphasizes the character’s despair. Behind all that clown makeup, he is still a human being who suffers like the rest of us. The idea of the close-up is to bring out compassion in the audience, towards his status. I wanted to celebrate the frailty of the human condition, and not the stigma of failure. As long as a person continues to pursue their dreams, they can never be a failure.
The long shot at the end projects the clown’s loneliness. Why have long shots been successful in projecting loneliness and despair in the history of cinema?
There are many ways to construct loneliness in a movie. It’s a matter of how you compose a shot, or place a subject within a frame. I think many filmmakers, including myself, prefer the long shots because it’s a simple technique, yet powerful and effective. What’s great about these
shots is that they can tell a story without needing any dialogue. Whether Alfred is walking among a crowd of people, or being alone in a vast forest, the wide shots illustrate his isolation.
Why have you taken a close shot to focus on the burning of the clown’s nose?
As with most clowns, the nose is a big part of their persona. There is this emotional scene where Alfred comes to the realization that it’s time to move on. The burning of the clown’s nose symbolizes that. It’s a crucial moment in the scene. He walks away from his clown’s life, ready
to reinvent himself, and start fresh.
What’s your take on failure? How do you handle it as a filmmaker?
Failure has a negative impact damaging one’s self-esteem. In everyday life, I try not to label people who are down on their luck as failures. In fact, in my movie I explore the same idea where Alfred walks away from his unsuccessful career as a clown in search of something new.
As a filmmaker, I have my own set of challenges to face in this industry. Am I a success or not? Who is to say? Some might consider that I am already a success having won all these awards for Jump, but I actually think I am only at the beginning of learning the ins and outs of
moviemaking. Everyone has their ups and downs on their path, but that shouldn’t determine who or what is a failure.
What does it mean for you to be a filmmaker?
It’s difficult to put into words what it means for me to be a filmmaker. I am at the beginning of this journey, trying to find my voice. As a shy child, I would express myself through writing, or photography. I think the idea of being able to impart thoughts and emotions through storytelling has stuck with me since then. At the moment, I am learning from great directors in the history of filmmaking while at the same time, I try to pinpoint what it is that I find fascinating in the world around me which deserves a story, a movie. To arrive at your own vision and its original expression is definitely a life-long process. Ultimately, I want to make movies that matter, raising awareness on certain issues and taboos.