When farmer Aymé Pigrenet loses his wife, he is not exactly overwhelmed by sorrow, rather by the sheer amount of work that suddenly falls on his shoulders. In quest of a new spouse, he goes to Romania where he meets Elena.
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This movie is spectacular in so many ways. It is at the surface a blunt caricature of love, attraction and jealousy. It gravitates around a constant present time scene of Fred and Emilia's postcoital bedtalk. They lay there naked talking, and reading the deceased Ladima's love letters, Emilia getting up on occasion to fetch coffee or such. This all brings Fred to think of his lost friend, of the woman Ladima loved (the same that is in bed with him at the moment) and how this relation differed or paralleled his own unfulfilled love experience.
The film starts pretty slow and straight-forwardly. Good, but almost ordinary storytelling. The setting is the 1920's in Bucharest and we get to have a feeling of that time and place. We learn of the obvious traits of all the characters. Emilia is promiscuous. Ladima is too nice and platonic (man of integrity). Fred was/is madly in love with a woman (Madame T), but nothing is coming of it but sorrow and pain. The only real mystery remaining, so we think, is Madame T.
Money problems, acting career, newspaper censorship. It moves along quietly, but nicely. Petru Vutcarau does any incredible job as Fred and this talent can be seen throughout the movie.
Then we dig into Fred's past and find out how he came to love Madame T. Gripping love story. Awkward, touching, genuine. From then on, the depth and sensitivity of the movie is intensified. Motivations are not as clear anymore. Poetry and lyricism surface. The imagery of the movie is more open and let your thoughts wander. Situations are oddly intertwined. Actions are only partly justified. The heart is confused. Aching. Unsure.
There is a real explosion of re-examination and questioning. What is really going on? Is life love, and if so why is it so complicated? Why did Ladima kill himself? What happened between Fred and Madame T?
This movie has built up a crescendo without you even noticing. You are gripped in the story, riveted by the characters. Vacillating like their feelings. Trying to grasp it all, but certainly failing.
I was completely distraught at the end of the movie. Still am almost a day later...
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