Film Review: On Freud’s couch – HBO’s ‘Drifting’

For diversity’s sake I have been thinking about expanding this column to television productions as well, so let’s just start with the obvious, namely an original HBO series. The American broadcaster has been strengthening their local connection, and successfully so, by producing and distributing Romanian short films and documentaries, a blessing for all young independent filmmakers out here. Their foray into the local market has included importing well-received American original series and laudably not just by airing them here but by producing them entirely anew.

That’s very much the case with its current prime-time Romanian series, running for two years so far, the psychoanalysis drama Ȋn derivă/Drifting, based on In Treatment, which ran from 2008 to 2011. Based itself on the Israeli TV show BeTipul, the American show borrowed both its theme and structure, a decision also followed by HBO Romania. The series centers on a fifty-something psychiatrist and his weekly sessions with his patients. Each week airs four episodes with him in the chair and one in which he is on the couch, battling his own demons with his therapist.

The US show relies heavily on Gabriel Byrne’s charisma as the main character while the Romanian series casts the national actor closest to international superstardom (the obligatory Eastern European baddie in Hollywood blockbusters like Mission Impossible), the appealing Marcel Iureş (in picture), and there is no question that the intellectual and smooth-mannered thesp does a great job of portraying a fascinating, if more fragile hero than Byrne’s. Unfortunately the supporting cast are not consistently revealing like in the American original, but competing against actors like the Woody Allen regular Dianne Wiest must be one tough task.

Of course the ‘local’ treatment is more emotional, and the acting more histrionic, but cultural clichés aside, it does work as a sharp take on contemporary urban life and anyone living in Bucharest for a while will surely recognize some of the characters’ dilemmas.

Furthermore, it’s great to see a Romanian TV show which is well written, staged, and played, and above all one which takes its audience seriously. Compared to other ‘original’ shows running on Romanian commercial television, I can’t be thankful enough for a grown-up and ambitious production such as this one.

So tune in, by all means! (and check the trailers below)

For more details on the show, the cast, as well as online episodes, click here.

By Ioana Moldovan, Columnist

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(photo source: HBO)