Romeo Aldea (49), a physician living in a small mountain town in Transylvania, has raised his daughter Eliza with the idea that once she turns 18, she will leave to study and live abroad. His plan is close to succeeding - Eliza has won a scholarship to study psychology in the UK. She just has to pass her final exams - a formality for such a good student. On the day before her first written exam, Eliza is assaulted in an attack that could jeopardize her entire future. Now Romeo has to make a decision. There are ways of solving the situation, but none of them using the principles he, as a father, has taught his daughter.Written by
69th Cannes International Film Festival 2016
Eliza, you have to do your best. It'd be a pity to miss this chance. Some important steps in life depend on small things. And some chances shouldn't be wasted. You know, in '91, your Mum and I decided to move back. It was a bad decision. We thought things would change, we thought we'd move mountains. We didn't move anything. I have no regrets, though. At least we tried...
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The Romanian 'New Wave' is not that new any longer. For the last decade Romanian directors succeeded to surprise viewers and juries with their films dealing with hardships of life under the Communist dictatorship, and about the period that followed immediately, a time that carried the sequels of the dictatorship in the difficult transition that the country has undergone. It's kind of a revenge and recovery both from an artistic but also an attitude point of view, because Romanian cinema was deeply affected by censorship, and the directors of the previous generations enjoyed less freedom than their colleagues in other former Communist countries, having to either compromise, or had their movies severely chopped of, if not simply interdicted. The result was that with very few exceptions both the value and the message of the Romanian films before 1989 was null. More than a decade had to pass, and a new generation of film makers to appear in order to fix and start the recovery process. Results are however brilliant. Cristian Mungiu is one of the best representatives of the new school of directors, maybe the best. All his projects are followed with interest, and they do not disappoint, including 'Bacalaureat' (Graduation).
Interestingly enough, the films are differently perceived by the Romanian and foreign audiences, and this was clear in the reception and commentaries at the Haifa International Film Festival where I saw the film, as well as in the questions that lead role actor Adrian Titieni was asked from the audience after the screening. He was quite careful in pointing that the film should be taken as what it is, meaning one film representing maybe one facet of the Romanian reality, but not all of it.
There are two main themes in the film: First it's about the generation gap, about parents sacrificing everything for what they perceive as best for their kids - but is this 'everything' the best or even good? Same as in 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, the film that brought him the Palme d'Or, the hero of Mungiu's latest film crosses the borders of law and buries his own moral rules in order to help. It's just that here it's not about helping the best friend, but his own kid (same them as in another Romanian production that I liked - Child's Pose) but by doing this he becomes the master of her destiny - is this really for her good? His goal is to save her from the generalized atmosphere of corruption, from the endless chain of relations the Romanian society and life seem to be built upon, but in order to save her from the system he needs to become part of it. This is the second important theme. The Romanian director seems seems to look around in anger, at his own broken dreams, at the lost opportunities of his generation who could have made a difference but did not have the courage to do it, ending in compromise.
The role of Adrian Titieni is very similar with the one in Illegitimate which I had seen in the previous evening at the festival, but more complex, and the direction style is very different. Mungiu seems to control very tight his actors and makes sure that all intended nuances are there, while Adrian Sitaru, the director of Illegitimate gave much more freedom to the actors, who could improvise and build their own version of the characters. The result is impressing in both movies, confirming Titieni as one of the best film actors of his generation.
Interestingly enough, the two movies end both in similar manners, with a still snapshot photo - in this case the traditional picture of the high-school class at the end of the graduation ceremony. Everybody smiles to the future, but what all the film told us is that the future is uncertain. Will the next generation have the courage and the luck to be the generation of the change?
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