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Exclusive: You Won’t Be Alone explores fables, mystical and human themes

Anamaria Marinca stars in You Won’t Be Alone. Pic Credit: Branko Starcevic/Focus Features.

When it comes to unique films, You Won’t Be Alone is in a class by itself with its fresh, deep, and emotional take on folklore.

Written and directed by Goran Stolevski, the mystical horror film is set in an isolated mountain village in 19th century Macedonia, the film follows a young girl who is kidnapped and then transformed into a witch by an ancient spirit.

Curious about life as a human, the young witch accidentally kills a peasant in a nearby village and then takes her victim’s shape to live life in her skin. With her curiosity ignited, she continues to wield this horrific power in order to understand what it means to be human.

Writer-director Goran wanted to show a 19th-century world that was very patriarchal, abusive, and had real witches in it who could inhabit the skin of others. 

From Focus Features, the one-of-a-kind indie movie stars Noomi Rapace, Alice Englert, Carloto Cotta, Felix Maritaud, Sara Klimoska, and Anamaria Marinca. The movie opened in theaters on April 1.

Marinca is not only an accomplished actress, she speaks many languages, including English, French, German, Romanian, Macedonian, and Aromanian.

She grew up with a strong foundation in the arts; her mother was a classically-trained violinist and her father was a theater professor. She studied the violin throughout her childhood and announced at the tender age of seven that she intended to become an actress.

The Romanian-born actress made her screen debut in the Channel 4 film Sex Traffic, for which she won a BAFTA Award for best actress. Marinca is also known for her performance in 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days, earning several awards for her performance. In 2008, at the 58th International Berlin International Film Festival, she was presented the Shooting Stars Award by the European Film Promotion.

In 2008, she appeared as Yasim Anwar in the BBC 5-episode miniseries The Last Enemy. Marinca appeared in the Romanian drama Five Minutes of Heaven. She later had a prominent role in the 2014 film Fury, in which she played a German woman named Irma who meets up with an American tank crew during World War II. She is a regular in the Welsh TV detective series Hinterland.

Read on for Marinca’s take on You Won’t Be Alone, the beauty of filming in Macedonia, the human condition, and more during a recent Philadelphia Press Event.

Monsters & Critics: Tell me about filming in the beautiful mountains of Serbia.

Anamaria Marinca: It was amazing, especially at the time of the year when the colors change. In the middle of a pandemic, we were the lucky ones who got to go out and fly to a foreign country and be together in this bubble and create a beautiful film.

M&C: We see the character the wolf eater both in her supernatural and in her human forms. Why do you think that it’s important that you see her as not just an evil character, but also something of a tragic background?

Anamaria Marinca: I don’t think of characters in terms of good and evil. I was very happy to make this incursion into her past, to give a more comprehensive understanding of her life. Of course, this life spans hundreds of years, because witches are probably immortal. I mean, she tries to renew her forces. Obviously, we see the way in which she preserves her looks in the film. She gained supernatural powers during the centuries she kept living.

But this is just a metaphor. The underlying condition is the profound loneliness of the human being and her searching for meaning, I think. She tries to understand how love is possible after what she endured. I also think she is trying to learn to become a mother, but that quality is also being denied to her.

M&C: What is the inspiration for you here? Usually, when there’s some type of folklore it’s based on something that was passed down from generation to generation or a fable of some sort. How much of that influenced the film?

Anamaria Marinca: I think the folklore in the Balkans has a lot of common roots, but I have never met the “Wolf-Eatress”(or (Old Maid Maria) in the Romanian folk tales I grew up with, so that was a new character for me. But the kind of gory, very scary characters in our folklore [do] exist. I think it was exciting for me to go back to the place I was born in and the place I grew up and be part of something that was very specific but very general at the same time. Because I think everyone that watched our film connected to the story, and that small village in the 19th century in Macedonia is a metaphor for the world.

M&C: This is clearly a very different role for you. What drew you to this one? And how different was it preparing for this type of role versus the roles that you’ve been known for?

Anamaria Marinca: The tragic element was there. I’ve done a lot of parts that were very intense, let’s put it that way. But I’ve never been part of such a metaphorical world and this is a fairytale to me. It was a fairytale when I read it. It was very poetic. Playing a part in Goran’s first feature was such a gift to me and being offered.

M&C: I wanted to know what you learned personally from doing this movie, and also what maybe you learned about your craft.

Anamaria Marinca: I think as an actor you always learn, and I think that each and every character becomes a part of you. I go physically through the emotions and the motions of this character, to me all the moments that I have been acting in were real. It is like I have been through that. There were very intense experiences, but I think an actor creates a new reality and we all lived in this world. I think that kind of print is very powerful. If it changed me as an actor, I’m not sure. I think as a person, I’m richer for sure, as I am with every book I read, with everything that happens in my real life. But again, emotionally for actors, I think between life imagined and life lived there is not such a big difference if you believe so much in what you do.

M&C: Since your artistry has to come through your face in many previous roles, was it is a problem in this movie?

Anamaria Marinca: Well, it gave the viewer the character. I forgot about wearing makeup most of the time. I’ll be very aware when it was applied. I was joking, I think I got high every morning from that glue. I must have. I was very happy at a very early hour. But then during the day, I think it’s natural again with the atmosphere we’re in, creating, and with the story developing and us thinking so intensely about the scenes and the work at hand, it just disappeared for me. I would see a hand or my claws and I would remember that actually, I have to be careful not to snag them.

But it became part of me, and I’m glad it happened because otherwise, [I] was too conscious about it, I think I would have tried to play it. I can’t say I used it in the best possible sense. I think a good costume or a good scenography, good makeup is the one that lets you be completely free and that makes you forget it is fake. I forgot that it is something that is made of latex. It was a second skin and it didn’t stay in my way, on the contrary.

Noomi Rapace in You Won’t Be Alone. Pic. Credit: Branko Starcevic/Focus Features.

M&C: In a way, you do have a strangely intimate relationship, almost like a twisted mother-daughter relationship. Towards the end, your character and Nevena envy each other, they fear each other, but they understand each other and they sort of need each other as well. How important was that to your take on the role, that relationship with her?

Anamaria Marinca: I think the whole story explores the idea of maternity. What does it mean to be a mother, to be a good mother? If this connection happens between the two of them, it’s not by love, maybe [it’s] through the understanding that they were both cut off from the world. One by the community she was once part of or trying to become part of, and the other one because of a curse. But they were both outsiders and they were both trying to find out who they are and what they feel, and what is it to be human?

I think that story is beautiful. It also gives them a common ground, and I think there’s an intuition about the hurt that’s there. And there’s a tenderness. There is this desperate need to connect and that connection never happens, and that touches me and that’s the sadness of this story. For me, I was never able to quit that kind of feeling that I was carrying with me. The impossibility to connect with one’s own daughter.

M&C: I wanted to ask you about costuming. As women, we are judged by the exterior. In this particular case, you had the liberty because of the makeup and because of some of that to not have to rely on the exterior to convey more internally and through nonverbal cues the suffering and some of the challenges this character has. Was that an asset or was it more difficult for you?

Anamaria Marinca: Yeah, because also I had the whole costume, the skin, the whole-body costume, and that in the beginning, I was quite self-conscious about that as well. I think it became part of the story and who I was at that particular moment. I think I knew I could convey through that barrier what the character is about. I think it’s in the eye and I think it kind of transcends. Again, if you believe in who you are and you’re inhabited by that kind of energy, I think that kind of appearance can only help.

As a woman, I’m not necessarily connected to those standards. And I’m not a big fan of the world we live in actually and of the standards imposed by social media. As an actor also you learn this in school, to go towards the expressiveness of a face, to look for the truth so you’re more interested obviously in the interior and the mind of a character than of its appearance.

M&C: The location really serves as just another character in the film and really elevates some of the, not only the visuals but the storytelling, what challenges there were to the filming process in such a rugged locale?

Anamaria Marinca: Actually, it wasn’t rugged at all. It was a beautiful small town in the mountains, that to me was very familiar because it’s in Eastern Europe. It could have been in Romania or, I could have been in Macedonia, but it happened to be in Serbia. Also, we were in a beautiful hotel that allowed us to meet and dine together in the middle of a pandemic. The town allowed us also to have human contact because I think there were very few cases there so our regiment wasn’t that strict.

The colors of the season and the mountain was beautiful, and that village was an incredible home to us. The climate and nature were working with us and not against us. I can’t say I was challenged by the vicissitudes of it. It might look scary and it was majestic, but again it wasn’t dangerous, you know? It played its perfect part in the film. It looked the right way.

Sara Klimoska in You Won’t Be Alone. Pic Credit: Branko Starcevic/Focus Features.

M&C: Why do you want my readers to see this film?

Anamaria Marinca: I want you to see yourselves. I want you to understand whatever there is in the story for you to take home. I’m not here to give definitions or to explain the film. The film is a mirror and I think every personal experience reflects the humanity in it. And every person’s experiences will throw a light on different probably elements of the film. But the general questions we have as humans, the need to connect, this idea about motherhood, the possibility or the impossibility of it, are very important for us. And they were touched in literature, in paintings and films, so I think people are going to the cinema probably to see themselves and to connect with a story that can throw light on their own life.

M&C: Can you give me a general comment about the director and the writer, Goran Stolevski, and give some feel about what kind of a person he is?

Anamaria Marinca: I remember, I think it is, it must be a decade ago I met a young director, and his energy and his kindness made me connect with him. And I said yes to the first script I read; it was a feature film. In time we kept in touch and I always knew we were going to work together, but I never thought it would be such an unusual and beautiful film. Because everything I had read before, involved quite psychological realistic stories that I kind of connected through the lens of a woman my age in this world we inhabit.

This fairytale he offered me to read opened a whole new world and I cherish it. I cherish his friendship. I’m not sure I told you but I told one of my interviews today, I had time while waiting to go in front of a camera to watch him. Because we were always hanging out together. To watch him watching us. To watch him with a monitor. I said I’ve never seen anyone more passionate and involved and loving towards his actors. He was whispering every single word and he was breathing with his actors, and I’m sure he did that with me. That kind of emotion is very touching. You want to honor that as an actor and to make his world, to bring his world to life.

For more in this genre please check out, The best classic horror movies.

Focus Features released You Won’t Be Alone in theaters nationwide on Friday, April 1.

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