Wolf conquers new territories in Romanian cinema
by Stefan Dobroiu
- Produced by Strada Film and starring newcomer Mihai Vasilescu, Bogdan Mustata's first feature competes for The Heart of Sarajevo award
Five years after winning the Golden Berlin Bear with his short film A Good Day for a Swim, Bogdan Mustata directs his long-gestating first feature Wolf. The title role is played by newcomer Mihai Vasilescu (photo), who turned 16 on the film's set in October 2011. The collaboration between the director and the actor brings new hope for the so-called Romanian New Wave, as it introduces new and promising voices.
Without an actual story, the film revolves around teenager Wolf (Vasilescu), who is still mourning his father (Costel Cascaval). In his apartment building, the boy meets Clara (Ada Condeescu, Berlinale Shooting Star in 2013 and the obvious temptress of Romanian cinema) and falls in love. Wolf starts following her around and his encounters with other characters, mainly neighbours in the same building, show that there is something wrong in the teenager's life. And then his dead father shows up in the next room, asking for his wife...
Written by Mustata over several years and following numerous changes and re-writes, Wolf is a puzzling piece of surreal cinema. Wolf, a loner, yearns for a meaningful connection with others, but keeps his emotions to himself. His world, the apartment building, almost seems like the belly of a giant beast: it's a prison and a trap, and Wolf, always opening and closing doors, seems to be a provider of access in a strange realm, with no logical rules.
The average cinemagoer will be puzzled by Mustata's indifference to traditional storytelling, but Wolf excels in atmosphere. The photography of DoP Barbu Balasoiu transforms the boy's continuous roaming into a fantastic voyage, with beautiful amber light which is reminiscent of the lyrics of poet and philosopher Lucian Blaga: “where does the light of heaven come from? I know: hell lits it with its flames.” Is it heaven or hell for young Wolf? Nobody knows, and the film leaves behind a nagging feeling that there is much to see underneath its mysterious, unrevealing surface.
Even if one could suspect that the director himself is unsure of what happens in his protagonist's life, Bogdan Mustata must be praised for his courage to go against expectations and create a feature that is so singular and unfamiliar in the local film landscape. Wolf introduces a new voice, discovers new talents and says farewell to legends: communist era darling Sergiu Nicolaescu in his last role for the big screen, as an old man continuously searching for his wife (Camelia Zorlescu), who is dead but actually isn't.
With this €1m Strada Film production, Mustata adds power to a wave of new directors who want to explore different styles, genres and themes. It will be an interesting autumn in Romanian cinemas, since besides Wolf, Alexandru Maftei will release his atmospheric horror Miss Christina [+see also:
film profile] and Iulia Rugina her ensemble romantic comedy Love Building [+see also:
interview: Iulia Rugina
film profile]. George Dorobantu (Elevator) puts the last touches to his post-apocalyptic and ultra-independent Omega Rose, while Cristi Puiu and Radu Jude develop At the Manor and Aferim, dramas set in the 19th century.