Orizont: The corruption of a family
by Stefan Dobroiu
- Marian Crişan uses his psychological drama to discuss one of Romania’s most pressing environmental issues
Radu Muntean’s “anti-thriller” One Floor Below [+see also:
interview: Radu Muntean
film profile], shown at Cannes, has a simultaneously similar and very different competitor in Marian Crişan’s Orizont [+see also:
interview: Marian Crisan
film profile], a slow-burning thriller shown in the Tallinn Black Nights competition. The clash between a family administering a mountain chalet and the local logging mafia allows the director to pay homage to one of the most famous novellas in Romanian literature and also to draw attention to one of the country’s most pressing environmental issues.
Crişan goes back to his main actorfrom Morgen [+see also:
film profile], Andras Hathazi, who now plays Lucian, a middle-aged chef returning to Romania after working abroad. Massive, slow, brooding and determined, Lucian wants to make a good living for his family and decides to take over a mountain chalet named Orizont (“Horizon” in Romanian). Together with his wife Andra (Rodica Lazăr), his son and his mother-in-law, the man does everything, from cooking to cleaning the rooms for tourists. His sole aim is to secure a comfortable and peaceful life for his family, but he will soon find out that hard work, frugality and patience are not enough: his family becomes a pawn in a conflict between the police and the logging mafia.
Crişan does an impressive job of updating Ioan Slavici’s novella The Mill of Good Luck and showing how good intentions are useless when surrounded by huge financial interests on both sides of the law. With devastating efficiency, the director shows how Lucian’s world slowly, almost unnoticeably, changes: this practical man’s life, which starts off as an extremely simple equation (for example, a piece of meat needs a certain amount of time to represent a certain sum of money), becomes increasingly complicated, with tensions, threats, blackmail and dubious gifts continuously shrinking his horizon to the point of no return.
Cinematographer Oleg Mutu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days [+see also:
interview: Cristian Mungiu
interview: Oleg Mutu
film profile]) uses the cold light of winter and the spectacular landscape in order to convey the gigantic choices the main characters have to make. Andra’s decisions are as important as Lucian’s, and Orizont has its feminist undertones, although a subplot involving a love triangle is one of the film’s least convincing aspects. The conflict is greatly aided by appropriate and careful art direction: the shoot took place in a mountain chalet, whose simple, clean, wood-and-white-paint interior appears in stark contrast with the family’s tribulations.
More than a story of a family facing unusual challenges, Orizont may resonate strongly in Romania in February, when it is scheduled for release – not only because of Crişan’s screenplay tackling illegal logging and deforestation, a much-discussed topic in recent years, but also because the movie shows the harmful mixture of endemic corruption and the authorities’ incompetence, which make many Romanians feel as if they live in a country where the law is irrelevant.