Thu 23 May 2013
With Pozitia Copilului (Child’s Pose) the Romanian cinema seems to complete a cycle that started almost a decade ago with Moartea Domnului Lazarescu (The Death of Mr. Lazarescu). The path was marked by a number of prizes at important cinema festivals around the world, with the first candidacy of a Romanian film for an Academy Award, but more important by the recognition by viewers that Romania is one of the locations where some of the most interesting movies come from, and that a specific style, a consistent set of themes, and a typology of characters combine to make the Romanian cinema distinct from other film schools. It did help that many of the actors in these films are constant collaborators of the leading directors of the ‘wave’, some of them becoming familiar faces to world cinema spectators. Luminita Gheorghiu and Bogdan Dumitrache – the lead actors here – acted also in Moartea Domnului Lazarescu, while Vlad Ivanov was the evil figure in 4,3,2.
As many of the good Romanian films in this period Calin Peter Netzer‘s movie can be seen and interpreted at multiple layers. One of them is composed of the social realities of Romania more than two decades after the fall of the communism. Class disparities are more obvious than in other places and contrast with the forced (and false) egalitarianism that dominated the Romanian society for most of the second half of the 20th century. The introductory scenes build for the viewer the context of the relations of the mid-upper class where the main heroes belong, with bourgeois occupations and family crisis, stylish social events and opera master classes. The obsessive relationship between the dominant mother and the spoiled son who seems to behave like an ingrate brute defines the second layer, the one of the personal relations between the characters. When the road accident that turns the world of the heroes upside down happens, the heroes will be obliged to make contact with the other Romania, the one of the pauper country people, with course manners but maybe with more character and moral strength. The system of relations and corruption is immediately put in motion by the mother, trying to protect her son and make him avoid the consequences of his behavior – a social comment about today’s Romania which does not go lost neither for the Romanian nor for the foreign viewer. While this part is more clearly cut, there is no moral judgment made on the rest of the relations, and this is a smart choice made by the director.
The rest is left to the actors and they are simply said wonderful. Luminita Gheorghiu as the possessive mother and Bogdan Dumitrache as the traumatized son who makes all the wrong moves at the wrong moments in order to cut-off the invisible umbilical cord play one of the most meaningful and highly charged mother-son relationships that I have seen lately. Most of the actors in the supporting cast give sincere and expressive performances, which I would rather describe not as acting but as living their roles. A few memorable scenes (the master class at the beginning and the final scene of the confrontation with the family of the kid killed in the accident) may live in the memory of the viewers even longer than the rest of the film. Dealing with a subject that could have easily turned into melodrama or soap opera Pozitia Copilului succeeds to make a sharp social comment that works well with the more universal story of a suffocating love which is touched by miscommunication and tragedy.