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Sitting at the dinner table with his four grown-up children and their partners, widower Victor relishes his role as family patriarch. He holds forth on physics and wine until his son Cosma confronts him with the fact that his name has shown up in historical documents which indicate he denounced women wanting to flaunt the abortion ban in place until 1989. The mood abruptly shifts. Victor defends himself by pointing out that he is, after all, against abortion and that twins Sasha and Romi owe their very lives to this fact - their mother wanted to abort them. Yet when Sasha announces she is pregnant soon afterwards, Victor's convictions are put to a true test.Written by
'Ilegitim' (or 'Ilegitimate' in English) starts with a very normal family scene. Around the family table we see the father (Adrian Titieni), a man in his late 50s (we'll soon learn that he lost his wife one year and a half ago), and his four children, the elder in the 30s, the younger (brother and sister twins) just out of their tween-age. Father gives a small conference filled with platitudes about time, which the kids seem to follow jokingly, less than half interested. They speak quite vulgarly for a family of intellectuals (father is a surgeon, the elder brothers follows the same professional path) but this is normal in today's Romania as I hear (I do not live there for more than 32 years). The end of the movie is again very normal, a still family photo where everybody is smiling happily to the camera. However, nothing is normal with this family between the opening and the closing scenes of Adrian Sitaru's film.
There are several reasons not to like this film, which does not avoid shocking its viewers, although I would say it's doing it not in an ostentatious manner. I have already mentioned one - the high amount of profanities. The other one is certainly approaching one of the last taboos not yet completely explored by cinema - incest - although there are precedents (for example in Bertolucci's The Dreamers). But then, the Italian maestro was not afraid to take risks and to shock in several key (and top) points of his career. I can understand people who are inhibited by these reasons when watching 'Ilegitim' but I believe that they are losing quite a lot. The film is very well conceived, interestingly made, and continues some of the themes already taken upon by the Romanian cinema (forced aborting during the communist rule and the dilemma pro life - pro choice after the change of the regime, responsibility for the attitude or lack of attitude during the previous regime, the children's right to question the behavior of their parents). There also is here a beautiful although twisted love story, which is again to understand and maybe sympathize, or to hate.
The script is co-written by lead actress Alina Grigore and by director Adrian Sitaru who created the background and the situations, while letting the actors decide on the exact words and gesture that translate those into life. The result of this script writing and directing style is a spontaneous, natural, and sometimes naturalistic screen rendition, which looks fresh and authentic. Actors enter well the game, and the mix of professional actors mixed with non-professional works well. Best are Alina Grigore again who creates the portrait of the young woman whose feelings and way of life are put to a hard test and succeeds to enter the role with a winning combination of fragility and determination, and Adrian Titieni who plays a role quite similar in the general lines to the one in Cristian Mungiu's 'Bacalaureat' (Graduation), and a similar terrible choice to make between his moral convictions and the perceived 'good' for his child.
There is a breaking point in the story telling, just at the place where in more 'traditional' scripts the climax of the action slides into the solution (which can be a car chase, or gun shooting, or the heroes living happily together. You need to see the film (which I highly recommend) in order to learn what the writer and director decided to pick, I will just say that this is one of the possible solutions, and not necessarily the most obvious. The film could have ended in tragedy, in happy end, or something in-between which is called life.
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