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The Crack Magazine



Director: Cristian Mungiu

Stars: Martin Grigore, Judith State, Macrina Bârlădeanu, Mark Blenyesi

Romanian writer-director Cristian Mungiu’s latest is a sprawling state-of-the-nation drama with an all-too timely depiction of the resurgence of nativism in the EU/globalisation era. In an ominous prologue, a six-year-old boy witnesses something awful in the forest. Then we are introduced to Matthias (Grigore), a gruff, bearish Romanian as he head-butts his racist supervisor at a German slaughterhouse. Matthias flees back to his Transylvanian home town where he visits his estranged wife Ana (Bârlădeanu) and clumsily tries to impart traditional masculine life lessons to his non-verbal son Rudi (Blenyesi), the boy we saw in the prologue. Matthias also tries to rekindle a relationship with the middle-class Csilla (State), a woman who manages the huge local bread factory. The company has just recruited a number of Sri Lankans on minimum wage, and plan to recruit more in order to qualify for an EU grant. However, the presence of the foreign workers agitates some of the locals and matters turn ugly. Mungiu delivers some fascinating insights into bruised national pride, and how Romanians consider themselves an historic bulwark against those looking to invade the West, as well as their relationship to the many Hungarians who have lived in the area. The thematic busyness and measured pacing means the film feels a little unfocused until Mungiu delivers a bravura fifteen-minute fixed one-shot sequence set at a rowdy town hall meeting where all of the townspeople have their say, skilfully rendered by cinematographer Tudor Vladimir Panduru. The random oblique closing scene suggests that Mungiu was not quite sure how to tie this all up.

David Willoughby

Follow David on Twitter @DWill_Crackfilm