Sieranevada (2016) Poster

(2016)

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8/10
A Winter Wonderland
tributarystu15 September 2016
Although Romanian cinema has been 'mainstreaming' of late, this year has brought some old-school/new-school movies received to widespread critical acclaim, like Cristian Mungiu's Bacalaureat (Graduation) or Bogdan Mirica's Caini (Dogs). Both pictures, alongside Puiu's Sieranevada, were premiered at Cannes and between them they picked up the Un Certain Regard prize (Dogs) and the best director prize (Mungiu). Interestingly enough, Sieranevada will be Romania's push for the Academy Awards Foreign Film category, in spite of being the most demanding of the three movies.

At almost three hours' breadth, preponderantly shot inside an apartment of fifty square meters and with more than ten characters coming together for a forty-day memorial service since the passing of the family's patriarch, it amounts to a real-time experience of the event. There isn't a lot of narrative to go about: we start with the oldest son, Lary, and his wife, Laura, dropping off some shopping and organizing the evening for their child, before setting off to the family apartment, where everyone else is gathering. In spite of being late, most guests arrive after them, until the apartment is overflowing with a heterogeneous, inter-generational group of people and their many opinions. The event takes place just around the Charlie Hebdo shooting, which sets the stage for a prolonged conspiracy theory discussion about 9/11. But seemingly countless topics are sprung to life, whether in the bedroom (the story of an abusive husband), in the kitchen (communism versus monarchy versus religion), in the small office (the memorial service traditions), the dining room (the convergence point for most discussions) or even the tight hallway (an inebriated stranger dropping in), from where we constantly pivot. We only escape the apartment once and, really, it makes you wish you were back inside, after a vicious public scene caused by a ridiculous triviality.

And so it goes on for most of its runtime, brimming with family tension, personal frustrations and everyday minutia. If anything, Sieranevada has no actual climax, but it elevates smalltalk to an art form, masterfully managing an engrossing and complex conversational ebb and flow between characters you struggle to familiarize yourself with. It will take quite a while to get to grips with who is who and how everyone is related, which is part of the reason why the movie is so demanding, requiring your attention throughout. But if you stay tough, you'll figuratively be eating dinner with them by the end, as a member of this daunting family event.

Puiu creates a claustrophobic atmosphere within an oppressive, environment, whether inside or outside the apartment. To some degree, the viewer becomes attached to Lary, who leads us through the movie and mostly stays above the bickering and the conflicting undercurrents. He is a stoic figure and creates a sense of being the only 'normal' person in the room for most of the time, the adjudicator, in this fresco of the harrowing micro- and macrocosms of present-day Romanian society. The backdrop of the memorial service is decisive, because it sets the expectations of a sombre tone, yet the ensuing moments are anything but sombre. In essence, this contrast between excessive formalism and improvisational realism is the defining conflict of Sieranevada. It is also the cause for so much strife and malcontent in Romania, as we fail to either commit or compromise, feeding the urban anxiety of big- city life.

Still, this is not a movie for any time of day or any state of mind. The conversational authenticity is fascinating, but it wears you down, just like when you're invited to a reunion with a bunch of strangers and sit silently in the corner. It makes you want to shout out, but you are too foreign to do so. The nearly 180 minutes it stretches over makes it hard to keep the momentum going at all times, with the last quarter suffering the most because of it. And with all the arising themes, you will need at least some understanding of Romanian clichés and history to get on board quickly.

Overall, however, I feel it is worth the time, because Sieranevada feels true. It's a bit of a nightmare, sure, but it also manages to find and weave its story with quality fabric, highlighting meaningful contrasts between society, family and the individual and their 'forced' cohabitation. And it is ostensibly a universal story about the inner workings of family life, a hardcore version of movies like Margot at the Wedding or August: Osage County. With any luck, you will also share in Lary's laughter at the end.
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10/10
Not for everyone
sabertooth-tiger30 October 2016
There are two things you need to be willing to embrace before you watch this film. First, the film is not going to make the connections between the characters easy for you. If you are a lazy viewer who is not paying close attention to the dialogue or you do not grasp the connections between the various dramas that are played out, you might be frustrated with what superficially appears to be a lack of direction and feel the film is "pointless". Second, the film is EXTREMELY Eastern European in character. If you want a Hollywood ending you will not find it here.

However, I simply love films like this that propel you into a difficult family situation and spend most of the film time there, allowing you to try to figure out for yourself what's going on. "The Godfather" is one example; I was also a huge fan of Roman Polanski's "Carnage". For people who like that kind of thing this film is a huge treat. It is only at the very end, after the slightly odd car monologue by the main character, that you really feel satisfied with what the film has accomplished and that you have come to understand a subtle coherence within the mess of individual failed narratives. Every character in this film is a self-actualized, 21st century individual who has come up with their own personal story about how the world works. The film's plot makes that obvious, but the remaining questions are up to you: where are the lies? Where is the truth? What happens to the main character at the end? This is a rather beautiful puzzle to behold.
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8/10
end of the wave
dromasca14 October 2019
With a delay of three years I managed to see Cristi Puiu's 'Sieranevada', a film that I had read and heard much about. Three years are certainly not enough for a 'historical' perspective but they are enough to better place the film in the context of what happened in the Romanian cinema before and after it and to understand the rather heated disputes it has created among critics and viewers. The film is indeed complex but also complicated, interesting but also long, providing many reasons to like it but also a few that can leave viewers from different categories of audience confused or dissatisfied.

The opening scene looks like a quote from the other new wave, the French one. A camera set up at a fixed point shoots for a few minutes a Bucharest intersection, with the chaos, agglomeration and noise that we know. The characters of the film, which we do not distinguish, are still silhouettes among the many that make up this hubbub. We'll follow two of them in a car that drives them for several minutes to the apartment where most of the action of the film is taking place. There they join the family reunited for the commemoration meal (following a regional traditional custom!) of the head of the family, who had died 40 days ago. For two hours, almost in real time, we will witness the ceremony, discussions, conflicts of a family large enough to include some of the characters known to those living in Romania today - the physician who abandoned his job for a more profitable trade , a young supporter of conspiracy theories, the older generation of those economically affected by the transition who try to adapt with little success to the new realities, a nostalgic for the communist regime, the young woman with dubious connections and habits including suspected drug use, the priest who is late due to a busy schedule because the religious business is going full on, couples in crisis or marriages already broken up. A beautifully constructed mosaic, a diverse and tormented world. And yet, they will also meet at future occasions or holidays, because family and friendship ties, together with adherence to a religious tradition that is not forgotten or abandoned, are the only links that somehow hold together the Romanian social fabric. These and maybe also the humor.

It is worth watching how Cristi Puiu and his cinematographer Barbu Balasoiu work with the camera. Sometimes the frame is fixed, most often mobile, it follows the point of view of one character or another, giving the feeling of a claustrophobic maze in the 3 or 4 room apartment where the action takes place. It is a sensation programmatically induced to the spectators, when we are outside the apartment we are dealing with the same chaos, with the same maze of human relations in crisis, only that the spaces are more open, but the atmosphere is frozen. The semi-darkness predominates and makes the film not easy to watch, also the sound capture is not optimal, but I think that the reason does not lie in technical issues but in the decisions of the director. Acting is superb, mentioning any name will do an injustice to all the other. The film captivated me and I did not feel or resempt the length at any time. But I can understand those who did not like the duration, or had difficulties in tracking the image or voices, because Cristi Puiu did not aim the aesthetics but wanted to convey ideas and sensations. Foreign viewers will have difficulties understanding many nuances, and those in Romania who are tired or exasperated by the mirrors that some of the contemporary directors put in front of them also have reasons to be upset. As much as I liked the movie, I believe that the minimalist formula has exhausted its resources and has certainly lost the elements of surprise and novelty. That's why I'm not surprised that the movie was ignored in the Cannes palmares. In 2005, Cristi Puiu made one of the first remarkable films of the new wave of Romanian cinema - 'The Death of Mr. Lazarescu'. 'Sieranevada' made in 2016 may be one of the last outstanding films of this wave.
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10/10
Only for eastern europeans, I guess
mihai-mirosanu29 August 2018
I don't know why but I found this movie really good. It resembled to the the high school book I had to read in my time, Enigma Otiliei or like Morometii book & screen play. Like all Romanian movies, it has that drama-parody of being a post-communist member; like all the good post-revolution movies. This movie is from the same category. But! And there's a huge "But". This movie has a really tangled and well-structured story line. The characters are really complex. I loved the "detailed" small-talks that took place alongside the main story. Also, like many Romanian families, you have that huge abundance of relatives that you have to deal with. You have that "It's family!" saying that your mother told you every time you couldn't stand your cousin when you were little. Also, all the actors seem to play their parts really well. I've seen almost all the good Romanian movies and I can say that these are some hardcore actors. They fit so well with their characters and their performance is almost perfect. Yes, it has the downsides that all Romanian movies have: the static scenes and the bad sound quality. You have to have subtitle otherwise, most of the time, if you are Romanian, you won't understand a word. All of this being said, enjoy! It's just a pure South-Eastern Week-end story event!
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9/10
Family drama has never portrayed this good
Grimmalkin29 August 2018
Family drama has never portrayed this good. You are invited into this family's house during the aftermath of a funeral in the wintertime. It gets very intense.
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10/10
winter sleep of our conscience, the Romanian way
oanafrigura12 October 2016
I love this movie completely! I went to see it in a Friday evening, 9 PM, but it won my full attention from the first line! I have enjoyed every single second of its 3 hours although I was tired and it changed my spirit, made me laugh, made me think, made me happy. It is a movie created from our very essence as a nation, from our each and every archetype, from our collective or individual beliefs, but with a director touch of genius that makes the movie to be an incredible story and an amazing movie experience. It is, for sure a state of mind movie, but, at the same time, I believe it's one movie that builds its own state into your mind. The thing I loved the most about the movie is the dynamics of the characters, each being its own archetype and what happens between them is completely delusional (in its best sense). The choice of the actors - truly inspired, every one fits its character best and it feels like you are really in that apartment with them as the synergy created is so well built. Highly recommend it! Congrats to our talented directors, for such an incredible year for the Romanian movie scene!
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3/10
A Film of Nevroses
em-chandelier13 June 2017
First of all, the film is too long, it does mot seem edited. Then the topic is the same old Communist story. The characters are simply nevrotic, being the exponents of a nevrotic society. The continuous noise in the background makes Sirranevada another Romanuan film with serious sound problems. The characters are 100%represemtative fir Bucharest, they speak as if they barked all the time, nobody smiles, there is mo moment of silence. Consewuently the viewer will be left with a terrible headache at the end, withe the feeling of witnessing an unfinished, unedited film, with a title that does not have anything to do with the narrative. A total waste of time, an awful piece of cinema with no meaning.
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3/10
just disappointing
dorul1330 July 2017
a chain of vapid banalities and too underlined common aspects of everyday post- communism Romanian life thrown in in order to give some kind of authenticity. It lacks editing, character building, a interesting story to the script and a filming approach that goes with the message it tries to send (if any). Although I'm a big fan of Romanian cinematography which is frequently surprising, I had to force myself through the first painful long hour and after I gave up. I found neither humour, drama or emotions. Disappointing.
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5/10
Too long
soring-778-62150918 November 2017
This is definitely a carefully crafted movie by a gifted director.

The result is disappointing though: way too long.

I enjoyed the fact that it captures real conflicts and emotions.

Could have done that in half the time though.

Good film for movies snobs.
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1/10
Annoyingly pretentious and 2 hours too long
ttrevian16 December 2016
As said already, annoyingly pretentious and 2 hours too long. Not even close to recent works of Cristi Puiu. Movie will fit hipsters and those who like pretend to be smarter then others. From almost 3h movie filmed in small space i would expect much better atmosphere that would suck up you into screen. Characters undefined, which should be stronger part as movie is that long. Some of characters (drunk student) introduced without any need but probably had to cause of cooproduction with other countries. Very weak.

Only good thing is great acting of some of the actors, but even that cannot hide pathetic tries of Puiu to be "different".

Fail.
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1/10
Irrelevant incontinence
lorenz-1858217 December 2016
Saw the movie a few days ago and is the only reason I've joined IMDb. There are many bad movies around but "Sieranevada" was by far the worst I've seen this year. If one didn't know the director's work one could imagine this is the attempt of a first time amateur who was irresponsibly given the money and the freedom to make a movie as he wishes.

In this case also the producers failed to stop Cristi Puiu's verbal and visual incontinence. 2h 53 min, 20 mins longer than "Apocalypse now" (!) out of which about 2h 30 min of irrelevant chattering devoid of any drama. 5 minutes of filming at the corner of a street before the title appears! This movie could've been cut down to 30 mins (if not 15) and the action wouldn't have suffered at all.

If movie lovers want to see an excellent movie about a similar family gathering they can see the Danish "Festen" or "After the wedding". "Sieranevada" is a waste of time.
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6/10
Evaluation of Sieranevada
sdemetrescu23 October 2016
It is a film too long and too boring. Too many characters in a space too small. All moves back and forth in a permanent and annoying tangle. Even the film's title is without sense and misspelled. The idea is to depict the miserable appearance of the Romanian people so it is very realistic. Another finding about the level of decay that we reached now in Romania. I appreciate his many actors even those appearing in supporting roles. It thought the sound was not well done; dialogues in Romanian language are not perfectly understandable, but of course it may depend on the cinema. We also appreciated the collaboration between filmmakers from so many countries.
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8/10
Love it and hate it, extraordinary gem
unpopicakbill3 May 2019
Wow, wow, wow, did I say wow? Wow!

How can three hours of movie go so fast? the movie in itself is very local, but so human, so for people acquainted with the old ways in the Eastern Europe region, this is very evocative.

Everyone, will find a character to like, and one to despise, one too similar to him, and one so dissimilar, that it hurts. Unfortunately I'm a national, and can't figure if the translations make it right, but for sure the dialogue, looks like a stage of 12 Angry Men (this time more like 15), exposing the back bone of a life time at the Paradise's gates.

Sure there are quite a few good movies on the theme, but not many filmed 90% in 500 square feet. So the feeling of being there is so real.

Unfortunately if the first hour eats your interest, I can understand how other people got bored, where I got so excited. Thought the reality of characters is very crisp, almost to the point I can say - that is uncle A, that's Grandpa', and that's Aunt M.

So if you want to get your head spinning, to feel momentary hate for some characters otherwise benign at other points, and wanting to get real exposure to end-of-Communism Romanian urban life. This is it!
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6/10
from cinema to the ER
coloured-cloud25 March 2020
Everybody told me to endure the first half of this movie because the second half was well worth it. Regrettably, at right about the mid point I had to exit the cinema with severe back pain and nausea. It turned out a kidney stone had exited my kidney and I spent the next 5 hours waiting for it to make it's way out. I had never had such a strong physical reaction to a movie and I never did find out how the movie ended, for fear of kidney failure or worse. First half, not that bad.
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1/10
Lost almost 3 hours of my life watching this
xjkl200315 January 2017
First of all, the director, Cristi Puiu, must really learn that we're living in the 21st century, and there are some useful inventions that he could use, like microphones, camera tripods & such. The way it's made, this film could easily be mistaken for an amateur home video... The script is awful, nothing really happens in the entire movie, bad image, bad sound, bad directing. This movie seems to be part of the latest trend in Romanian movies that won some consolation prizes at Cannes film festival - probably out of pity, or there might be some political reason for this. It's beyond imagination how movies that have no story-line, worst image, worst sound like this one, or others in the same category ("4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days", "death of mr. lazarescu") could be appreciated as art.
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1/10
boring, boring, boring
bogdan-paul-m3 February 2018
Incredible how this "movie" found resources to be produced; the only explanation can be that the producers had a lot of money to throw away or have been blackmailed by the director. Seinfeld was a clever and well made sitcom about nothing, this self-called movie is a big nothing, a ZERO, a non-movie. It' a shame that this non-film was financed by the National Company of Cinema a public institution who supposed to promote values of Romanian Cinema. A five years old child with a web camera can do better... No story, bad directing, stupid dialogues, lousy filming, unintelligible dialogues, in a sentence - A NON-SEE PIECE OF JUNK
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1/10
Garbage
ragnarok-737-53914321 October 2018
It's over! Thank God (or Allah, Buddha, whoever)! I was very reluctant watching another movie directed by the overrated Cristi Puiu because, let's face it, he makes awful movies. For those who don't know, this movie was inspired by the commemoration of the death of Cristi's father; he says this in an interview. In the same interview he says that one of his other garbage movies, the acclaimed "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu", was partially inspired by a personal experience. So basically this so-called artist makes movies inspired by what happens in his life... which seems to be very morbid. You see, ironically, that's the only good part about failed directors like Cristi, more exactly the fact that it makes you feel like anyone could do a movie. Like another reviewer said, a child with a webcam can do better. I'm not going to dwell on the technical aspects like what was this movie actually about or on what did they managed to spent over 1 millions euros... it's a Cristi Puiu movie, he creates garbage using someone else's money. The thing that somehow bothers me is that there's no connection between Sierra Nevada, which is a Spanish term meaning "snow-covered mountain range", and the movie. Well anyway, my advice is to not watch this movie or any other ones directed by Cristi.
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5/10
Terribly slow and theatrical
Ci-ti-zen11 October 2018
While the movie does have some merit in the way it tries to portray nitty-gritty life in grey Bucharest, its simply too long, too slow, and lacking that sparkle that could make you connect with it on a deeper level - this is said by a Romanian native, albeit one that has been an expat for the better part of the last two decades. As someone not at all exposed to Romanian culture, it would probably be much harder to connect at all or understand much of what is going on and the rather strong feeling of constant angst and bickering throughout the movie between the characters.
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