An 'offset' view of contemporary European politics
This is an intelligent film made with intelligence for an audience with intelligence. Yes it is very competent technically, the lighting subtle and natural, the editing unobtrusive but cleverly supportive of the narrative, providing the film with an lively pace which belies the 107 minutes running time. Didi Danquart economically directs us to a view of Romania which is unlikely the please the Romanian tourist board, but this film does much more than that, it reeks of an uncompromising authenticity.
Several of the performances are outstanding, as has been mentioned elsewhere Alexandra Maria Lara produces a performance of real depth, she is both convincing and affective in her portrayal of a young woman caught between two worlds. I was also impressed with the performance of Razvan Vasilescu as Iorga (Nicu)here is an actor who broods and effectively menaces all that surround him, without descending to pantomime theatrics. His omnipresent menace is quiet and subtle, only occasionally surfacing into conflict and expressed anger. One of the most impressive elements of this performance was the way his character is written. At several points Iorga uses the separation of characters by language and an effective weapon: smilingly he insults a German in Romanian leaving his secretary to flounder for a diplomatic translation.
This film captures the subtlety and the complexity of contemporary European integration. It bravely confronts the impact of the integration of ex-Soviet satellite states (with their moribund economies and crumbling architecture) into a relationship with one of the most advanced economies in Europe, Germany. The Germans are presented as exasperated imperialists, with a self conception of moral and economic superiority in relation to the Romanians. "We are just a typical German family" Stefan's father announces to Brindusa, a typical German family which cleverly satirises contemporary Germany: an ailing patriarch, an affected mother (brilliantly played by Katharina Thalbach), a sister who seems to be single mother, and two children who are spoilt and ill disciplined.
What the Germans take for granted is resented by the Romanians. As the film progresses we see the Germans represented as arrogantly 'taking' advantage in one way or another. Stefan thoughtlessly takes one of Brindusa's chocolates; another time her privacy is invaded, first by Stefan then by his spoilt nieces. Of course the greatest loss is metaphorically figured in the proposed marriage of Brindusa to Stefan and her subsequent departure for Germany. This provokes the anger of Iorga who had been Brindusa's lover before Stefan arrived.
This film takes its time, the audience is drawn into the lives of the finely drawn characters. Plot lines are allowed to develop organically and the audience follow without being patronised by cliché or stereotype, the end is rewarding and I thought incredibly tense.
The film's conclusion I believe to be a brave political metaphor. We all know that European integration is a wonderful thing, so much better than all those nasty wars of the 19th and 20th Centuries. But behind the political backslapping in Strasbourg and beneath the ring of stars in the EU flag are ordinary people who don't quite seem on message.
A very good film I would recommend it to anyone.
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