Romanian film review – Spiral
After having directed a number of award-winning short films, Cecília Felméri, a Hungarian-Romanian director from Cluj-Napoca, has recently launched her feature debut in local cinemas. Spirál/ Spiral is a co-production with Hungary, with Hungarian dialogue, and starring Romanian actor Bogdan Dumitrache in the lead.
In Felméri’s drama, a young couple, biology teachers Bence (Dumitrache) and Janka (Diána Magdolna Kiss), live right on the shore of a remote lake, in the old house that used to belong to Bence’s father who had disappeared in that very place.
Living off the taxes of the people who fish and rent huts, they are considering applying for a grant for rural development, but Janka is fed up with the isolated lifestyle and would like to have a teaching position in the city. To make the situation more ominous, smaller fish seem to be dying without a reason, and the big fish are potentially more dangerous than thought. And indeed, by the time spring comes, tragedy has struck. But then Nóra (Alexandra Borbély) arrives, looking strikingly like Janka, and stays to help Bence apply for the funding. What happens next is hard to describe without giving away any spoilers, but suffice it to say that the past is not gone.
Spiral is an intriguing mixture of genres: a relationship chamber piece, a horror, a (sometimes supernatural) thriller, a meditation on life and trauma. Felméri moves confidently between them, and she has great help from the lake itself, beautifully shot, easily a main character in its own right, its claustrophobic space and wildness a good canvas for the film’s meditation on the circle of life and nature.
But Spiral is also terribly oppressive and gloomy, without any humorous relief. Despite the excellent acting (Dumitrache is always very good at playing tortured individuals, even with his lines dubbed), it also remains strangely restrained, keeping its audience at a distance. The aloofness made me question the plot turns rather than simply accepting them; I wonder whether more emotional involvement would have made the film more enjoyable and potentially more credible.
But still, this is intelligent, ambitious filmmaking from a director who is not afraid to take chances. The fact that Felméri is a woman (still a rarity in Romania, especially for fiction films) who chooses to work with genre (just as rare), collaborating with a multi-language crew, is even more admirable, making Spiral one of the more attention-worthy releases of the year.
By Ioana Moldovan, columnist, email@example.com
(Photo source: Spirál / Spiral Facebook Page)