Mon 20 Oct 2014
I am following quite closely the development of the Romanian cinema, and Corneliu Porumboiu is one of the directors whose previous work I enjoyed a lot, especially ’12:08 East of Bucharest’ which was a story about the 1989 events of the fall of the Communism in a small town of Romania, placed under doubt both from a political as well as personal memory perspective. I confess however that I was deeply disappointed by this 2013 film which seems to me to be a dry and didactic exercise in method taken to the extreme where all substance and action become largely irrelevant. The result is simply boring, and the reaction of the audience at the Haifa Festival was a mix of incredulity, sarcasm and revolt with the daring one leaving the screening hall before the end and getting back good minutes of their lives.
’When Evening Falls on Bucharest’ tries to tell the story of a delayed day in the making of a film that does not tell anything important. The director (Bogdan Dumitrache) endlessly rehearses a nude screen with the lead actress (Diana Avramut) who ‘happens’ to be his lover. The scene is meaningless, but the director tries to get some sense of it. Almost the same as the envelope of this film which contains meaningless dialogs about the beauty and ugliness of the human body, the cinema of Michelangelo Antonioni or Chinese food. The lives of the characters are empty, their actions are incomprehensible (why does the director go through the pain of simulating an endoscopy in order to postpone a filming day? we never know), and the result is boring.
I know where this is coming from. Much of the success of Romanian cinema in the last decade was due to using a minimalist approach in describing the day-to-day lives of people during the Communist rule, or the transition period that followed. The method fit well the stories, because it is good to speak on low tone about situations that otherwise would generate revolt in the hearts of the viewers. The human dimensions of the characters of those films are much emphasized by the method. In ‘When Evening Falls on Buchares’ acting is very much according to the method, but the characters are empty, there is no human dimension to emphasize. There is only one good idea in the whole script, one scene in which the scene in the film is mirrored in reality, with the roles of the man and woman switched over. Reality is more efficient than the best directing. The rest is flat. If the director meant to say something smart about the relationship between director and actor, or pass some social message about the emptiness of life in today’s Romania, it all got buried in the huge boredom that this film creates which to some viewers may cause even anger. Talking about Antonioni is even less than an Antonioni quote. The characters of Antiononi exercised existential spleen because they first of all existed. Porumboiu’s characters in this film do not even exist.