Today I’m excited to say we have Fatma Mohamed in to talk about The Duke of Burgundy which I gave a glowing review recently (here). She plays The Carpenter in the film who provides her clients with the rather unusual apparatus that they desire. It’s a fun role and it was good to have a quick chat with Fatma recently. Be sure to read on for our interview…
Hello there Fatma, thanks for chatting with me today. How are you?
Hi James, I’m fine and thank you for the invitation.
That’s OK! What was your first response to the film when you received the script?
I enjoyed the script very much. The role of The Carpenter was a challenge for me as I was exploring the comedic side of the movie. I was also very excited and honored to have the opportunity to play with Sidse Babett Knudsen, a big actress that I admire and respect a lot. And also playing with Chiara D’Anna whom I didn’t have the opportunity to act with in any scene in Berberian Sound Studio.
How did you approach your role in the film?
I read the script very carefully to get a clear idea about what it is. I realized that I have to play a carpenter, you do not see her in her job but instead when she is convincing customers about the quality of her work. She empathizes with customers using her seductive arsenal of means because The Carpenter is a verbally persuasive character as well as non-verbally.
In the film you provide some very welcome comedic relief, is comedy something which you feel particularly comfortable with? Have you much experience with it?
Yes, I am familiar with comedy. I was told that I have involuntarily humour and I’m glad that in this film I had the chance to expose it. In theatre I’ve also played some comic roles.
Do you enjoy acting over dancing/singing?
I like when you need to combine it, but I have no preference whatsoever. It depends on the role.
My first appearance on stage was at the age of fourteen in a modern and contemporary dance group. For ten years I just danced. Then I felt that I wanted more and out of curiosity I tried the theatre faculty in the city in which I was born (Cluj, Romania). My theatre teacher the Romanian actress Miriam Cuibus guided me with passion and patience for those four years in the faculty. As a student I played several roles in classical universal drama performances (Shakespeare, A.P.Cehov, I.L.Caragiale). For 13 years I worked for the Andrei Mureşanu Theatre of Saint George, Covasna-Romania. This theatre’s repertoire includes mostly contemporary texts, social themes and theatrical dance. Here I played female roles in many different ways: ingenue, wife, sister, orphan, Roma mother, administrator, fortune teller, etc.
I also participated in some acting workshops and for one month I attended a jazz course as a singer. My first film role was in the Katalin Varga movie, as a Romanian wife. Afterwards followed Silvia, an actress employee who doubles in the Berberian Sound Studio. My next role was in The Duke of Burgundy where I was a Carpenter, all of those were directed by Peter Strickland. I also had a few appearances in a couple of Romanian films.
Well let’s talk about Peter Strickland. How has your relationship with him developed over the course of those films?
Indeed, I was lucky to work in all three feature films made by Peter. In his first film Katalin Varga I only had one scene which got me acquainted with Peter. The situation he proposed was quite challenging and I only reacted. In the second film (Berberian Sound Studio) we began to talk a lot in order to develop Silvia’s character. Peter has a delicate way of telling you how he sees the character which gave me the confidence to play it. Because of his way of being receptive, curious and provocative, with a subtle humour. In the third movie Peter stimulated my creativity and together we managed to build a character on the way. But I also need to mention Ms. Candy Alderson our make-up / hair designer and Mrs. Andrea Flesch our costume designer, for their contribution. They provided two enormously important elements in outlining the image of The Carpenter.
It (The Duke of Burgundy) also has a very good screenplay written by Peter, whose impeccable sense of dialogue stimulates the actor to find new meanings. He gives ‘good bread to chew’ for actors, as they say in popular speech. Working with Peter is like talking to your best friend and our relationship is based on trust, respect and freedom.
And are you looking to develop your acting career first and foremost?
What sort of roles would you like to play in the future then?
I do not know, I never thought of it before. I am open to more roles that challenge me to probe into deeper levels of human existence.
Excellent, well thank you very much for speaking with me today!
You’re welcome and thank you.
And that’s all folks. I hope you enjoyed this interview with Fatma and that you’ll be checking out The Duke of Burgundy if you haven’t already! Be sure to leave a comment in the box below before you leave.