by Vladan Petkovic
- Iulia Rugina’s first feature is a successful comedy about 13 couples trying to fix their love lives with three therapists.
Iulia Rugina’s first feature film, Love Building [+see also:
interview: Iulia Rugina
film profile], is a surprise in many ways, but most importantly, it is a Romanian crowd-pleaser, which is an achievement in itself. Grown out of an actors’ workshop, starring three well known faces of modern Romanian cinema and 31 non-professionals, Love Building is a successful comedy that can justly be expected to rule the local box office following its September release in the territory.
Dragos Bucur (Police, Adjective [+see also:
interview: Corneliu Porumboiu
film profile]), Dorian Boguta (The Death of Mr. Lazarescu [+see also:
film profile]) and Alexandru Papadopol (Tales from the Golden Age [+see also:
film profile], Occident) play three therapists who are running a seven-day camp called Love Building, designed to mend broken relationships. 13 couples come to a resort trying to fix their love lives, and are hilariously introduced through scenes typical of their issues as they travel to the camp, with short descriptions of the problems in narrative titles.
Once there, the couples (plus one woman whose husband couldn’t make it - problem: communication) get tasks devised to help them start thinking differently about their partner, and remember the beginning of their relationship, what made them fall for each other in the first place, but also face their own shortcomings and reveal secrets.
The tasks are given by therapists who have emotional problems of their own, which makes them ask themselves and each other about their competence for the job. Additional complications are brought on by the boss of the company who hired them to run the workshop (for which the couples paid serious money), when she brings two hosts from a popular TV reality show about couples dealing with the same issues to give out a villa in the mountains as a prize for the "happiest couple" at the end of the workshop.
Love Building was produced by the company of Bucur, Boguta and Papadopol, Actoriedefilm, and they were also mentors at the actors’ workshop. The source of the film is also the source of both its strong and weak points. Having this many characters in a feature film causes a certain lack of focus by the first-time director, but the concept brings a documentary-like authenticity to the characters’ relationships, compelling the audience to see them as real people rather than actors in a film. For some, this may feel like a lack of acting abilities, but the real-life impression is certainly stronger.
Scripted and improvised jokes made by the three main actors are mostly effective, though some do fall flat. Some of the scenes featuring only non-professionals are not executed (or edited) to the maximum effect, but this goes back to the authenticity issue. The way it will be received will depend on the spectator’s perception, meaning that film buffs and critics will see problems, and regular moviegoers will easily forgive these specific scenes, having been brought into a good mood by the generally upbeat atmosphere of the film.
Love Building will be released in Romania on September 13 by the country’s leading distributor MediaPro Distribution, which handles the films of Warner Bros. and rarely takes on independent titles. This is a perfect date movie, and if marketed properly, Love Building may well become a rare local blockbuster in the territory.
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