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KARLOVY VARY 2017 East of the West

Mariţa: An acting tour de force

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- KARLOVY VARY 2017: Cristi Iftime’s feature debut, screening in the KVIFF’s East of the West section, is a cheerful autopsy of family life

Mariţa: An acting tour de force

One of the titles in the avalanche of Romanian first features meeting the international audience in 2017 (see the news), Cristi Iftime’s compelling family drama Mariţa [+see also:
trailer
interview: Cristi Iftime
film profile
]
is the first to be selected at an important film festival: the HiFilm Production project is being screened in the East of the West competition of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (30 June–8 July). Impressively acted by an ensemble cast, the film explores an unexpected get-together of a divided family.

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We first meet Costi (a pitch-perfect Alexandru Potocean), a 30-year-old man preparing for the Christmas celebrations. Following a fight with his girlfriend, Costi unexpectedly visits his estranged father, Sandu (an excellent Adrian Titieni), inviting him to spend Christmas at a mountain cottage together with the rest of the family. The father and son will travel in Mariţa, an ancient, rather unpredictable Dacia car closely linked to many of the family’s dearest memories, setting the stage for remembering the bittersweet past.

The spontaneous, funny conversations between Sandu and those around him are great fun to watch (but unfortunately for foreign audiences, at least some of the colourful dialogue is lost in translation), but Mariţa goes deeper into the history of a family and the complicated relationships of Sandu, whose two hobbies, collecting stamps and women, proved to be too much for his former wife and three sons. Through long conversations, we discover an ageing man, quietly satisfied to meet his family again, but unwilling to regret any of his past, questionable adventures.

Right from the first sequence, Iftime’s penchant for long, perfectly rehearsed takes is obvious. Aided by DoP Luchian Ciobanu’s assured, unobtrusive horizontal pannings, Iftime brings life and motion to otherwise static scenes, letting the characters move around and interact with each other. But Mariţa is also a road movie, and some of the film’s most fascinating sequences develop as Mariţa swallows kilometres on her path among the snow-capped Romanian mountains. One of these sequences, a nine-minute-long take, is especially impressive.

Among the most endearing aspects of the screenplay written by Anca Buja and Iftime is the fact that the car is seen as a character. She may not take part in conversations, but her rather capricious behaviour on the road gives rise to a range of reactions from the protagonists. And Mariţa is that very quiet but ever-present family member, a silent witness of the ups and downs, the happy moments but also the misadventures in the life of a family. “If Mariţa could talk,” one might wistfully say... But there is no need to: the other characters speak in her name, inviting the audience into their unspectacular, but interesting, past.

Bogdan Dumitrache and Andrei Huţuleac play Sandu’s two other sons, while Ana Ciontea can enjoy, in the role of Sandu’s ex-wife, a more pleasurable family meal after her award-winning performance in Cristi Puiu’s Sieranevada [+see also:
film review
trailer
Q&A: Cristi Puiu
film profile
]
.

Mariţa was produced by HiFilm Production and co-produced by deFilm. In the autumn, the film will be released domestically by Micro Film.

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