Film Review: ‘Three Exercises of Interpretation’

Film Review: ‘Three Exercises of Interpretation’
Invited to conduct an actors’ workshop in Toulouse, Romanian helmer Cristi Puiu (“The Death of Mr. Lazarescu”) opted to put his fledgling Gallic thesps through their paces in a 157-minute cinematic triptych, “Three Exercises of Interpretation.” Though based on arcane 19th-century “conversations” about the gospels, morality and the Antichrist, the film paradoxically achieves remarkable levels of naturalness: The pre-existent text frees Puiu to explore, through compelling shifts in composition, various subtexts implied by the actors’ delivery, their occasional awkward silences and surrounding chitchat. Not initially intended for public viewing, “Interpretation” is a brilliant, albeit supremely uncommercial, fest entry.

The film is divided into three parts, each consisting of four different characters whose discussion, at some point, channels the writings of Russian philosopher/poet Vladimir Solovyov on which the exercises are based. With assorted minor variations, the conversations pit an atheistic disciple of peace and progress against a cynic who sees
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