Romanian film review – This Was 2022
It is the end of the year, and also time for best-of lists again. Instead of going through all releases and looking at all categories and so on, this time I decided to feature all the films that stayed with me off the top of my head, for various reasons that surprised and moved me. It was always the smaller parts than the overall film.
What made this freely put-together selection easy and most of all short was the simple fact that 2022 was less exciting in terms of releases compared to 2021. I wonder if this is also a natural effect of the pandemic and the films (or lack of them) shot during the past two years.
The one I had most fun watching was definitely #dogpoopgirl, a wild ride of a debut for actor Andrei Huțuleac. Based on a true case, it features an average bank employee who adopts a dog only for it to throw up on the subway on their way home. From now on, her life will unravel in the most nightmarish ways. A pitch-black, sharp comedy of errors, it got me screaming in delight and horror. #dogpoopgirl is streaming on HBO Max.
I was surprised to laugh so hard at this one, just as I was pleasantly surprised by two other films I knew very little before seeing, or who have been released with less fanfare than others. Emanuel Pârvu’s Mikado/ Marocco is a taut, clever drama about a small act of kindness that leads to a tragedy of classic proportions. The ending is a bit much, but the intensity of everything leading up to it makes this the best Romanian thriller of the year for me. Mikado has been screened sporadically in December in cinemas, so watch out for further dates.
I did not expect Om Căine/ Man and Dog to move me that much at the end. Well done, Ștefan Constantinescu, for not going the expected way. A pandemic film both in theme and its shooting period, this is the story of a doctor working abroad who returns to his hometown because he suspects his wife of being unfaithful.
Alexandru Belc's Metronom did have one of the splashier releases, also having arrived on local screens after a best-director award at the Cannes Film Festival. Set in the 1970s, its protagonist, a highschooler in love, is confronted with the insidious Securitate (state secret police) after attending a gathering with her friends who write a letter to the (real-life) legendary host of the eponymous, by-then-banned music radio show. Metronom’s beating heart is the extended party scene, set against The Doors’ “Light My Fire”, one of the most beautiful scenes ever in a Romanian film (the video below is a good teaser for its exuberance). Metronom is currently still screening in Bucharest cinemas.
Three documentaries also made the cut. One that I think most critics agree on (see our friends’ choices at Films in Frame) was Sebastian Mihăilescu’s Pentru mine tu ești Ceaușescu/ You Are Ceaușescu to Me. A mix of documentary and fiction, and truly fresh, both in form and subject, the director gathers a young group of non-professionals who take turns in playing the dictator as a young man in an audition. Not that it was in any way needed after this hit, but nice to see as a confirmation: Mihăilescu is certainly going places, more exactly to Berlin. His most recent, Mammalia, has been selected to run in the prestigious festival’s Forum section in February 2023.
A lesser-known pic is Dragoș Hanciu’s fully independently produced and distributed The Man and His Shadow/ Omul cu umbra, a moving, nostalgia-filled portrait of George Blondă, the long-standing technician in the lab for processing analog image at the National University of Theatre and Film in Bucharest (UNATC).
The most recent find was Róbert Lakatos' Al cui câine sunt?/ Whose Dog Am I?. A satirical documentary in which the director (as the protagonist) looks at dog breeds and their connection to identity and nationalism, this is both hilarious and an astute commentary on the above issues. Laktos is part of the Hungarian-speaking minority in Transylvania and has zero qualms in tackling all sorts of clichés about Romanians and Hungarians. Whose Dog Am I? is easily the most adorable film of the year. How clever to feature all those puppies who run away with most every scene, and how deft, because they sweeten (at least superficially) the more serious ideas debated here. The film’s playfulness also extends to its form: there are animations, bursts of colour, elements of comic strips, lively music. Check out the amusing trailer below and watch out for additional screenings in cinemas or online.
All in all, it was one good year for young directors and debuts.
By Ioana Moldovan, columnist, email@example.com
Picture info & credit: pstill from #dogpoopgirl @cinemagia.ro