If the Romanian New Wave filmmakers – of which Cristi Puiu remains a singular voice – would have us believe, Romanians are an irascible, dry-as-bones and loquacious people; now, while that might’ve been a deliberately cultivated stylistic choice, it added strikingly discernible flavours to their movies. Puiu’s astounding previous feature Sieranevada was filled to brim with rambling, ironic, deadpan, free-flowing and deliciously eclectic conversations amongst dysfunctional family members who’ve assembled at a cramped apartment. He took that formal thread – viz. a group of people conversing indoors on interconnected subjects – to boldly modernist but also oftentimes exasperating levels in Malmkrog. The similarity, however, ended there considering the lush period setting, spacious interiors, largely static shots (filmed using customary long single takes) and overtly literal diatribes demanding an attentive mind and patient nerves, as opposed to everyday people and intricately staged tracking shots in the previous film. The conversations were especially pertinent given its adaptation from a Vladimir Soloviev text – which Puiu referred for an earlier experimental endeavor as well – and that served as the basis for dense, crisscrossing and verbose discourses around religious wars, Christian morality, ethnicity, European-ness, “End of History”, etc. The narrative, which bounced across multiple languages, focused on six individuals at a lavish, snow-shrouded manor house in Transylvania – a garrulous, cynical aristocrat (Frédéric Schulz-Richard); a general’s war-loving wife (Diana Sakalauskaité); a devout, staunchly pacifist woman (Marina Palii); a mock-serious nobleman whose sophistry barely conceals his Euro-centric racialism (Ugo Broussot); and an enigmatic, articulate woman (Agathe Bosch); and, they were counterpointed in passing with the domestic help. The rigorously structured and framed 200-minute film, interestingly, started with underlying levity, but grew increasingly heavy, serious, and ultimately edgy, sarcastic and confrontational.
Director: Cristi Puiu
Genre: Drama/Historical Drama