Romanian film review: History lessons – Portrait of the fighter as a young man

portetul luptatorului

Jackpot! A Romanian film did it again. The Golden Bear of this year’s International Film Festival Berlin went to Călin Peter Netzer’s powerful drama Child’s Pose. It is a well-deserved award and a very special mention should go to the film’s cast, especially to the wonderful Luminița Gheorghiu, whose presence helped carry the entire picture.

The other thesps did a good job as well. Rising star Bogdan Dumitrache, who played her son, is no stranger to the Berlinale. One of his past films screened at the festival is truly one of the most interesting Romanian productions in recent years for subject matter. Constantin Popescu’s Portretul luptătorului la tinerețe/Portrait of the Fighter as a Young Man is a refreshing picture inasmuch as it is a pure period film, a rare genre in contemporary Romanian cinema. The lavish film tells of the little known period in the 1950s when a group of rebels gathered in the Făgăraș mountains in Transylvania to fight the communist wave. The film focuses on a large number of characters and their individual destinies playing out against a common context of political resistance.

For all its visual beauty and epic proportions the film has its shortcomings. To begin with, it has too many characters to focus on. It takes a great memory and maybe repeated viewings to keep the many names apart and match them to all the faces, all male, young, bearded, and admittedly quite photogenic. Secondly and not less problematic: at the stately running time of almost three hours it could also have used a more rigorous editor and a more focused view. But with a solid cast, lovingly detailed period pieces, great shots of the spectacular landscape and an engaging soundtrack it will certainly reward the patient viewer.

With his subsequent film, the altogether different Principles of Life,  Popescu made a leap forward in both form and subject, keeping the focus on just a few characters and most of all employing a tight script and a ‘regular’ running time. But his debut is still a beautiful work to behold.

The film has not yet been released on DVD but do keep it in mind for when it is. And until then watch the fine-looking trailer below. For all the Romanian speakers out there, the film is streaming full-length on Youtube. 

By Ioana Moldovan, columnist, [email protected] 

Romania Insider
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