Double: A clean, assured exploration of a personal crisis
by Stefan Dobroiu
- KARLOVY VARY 2016: Catrinel Dănăiaţă’s first feature is competing in the East of the West sidebar at the KVIFF
With a clean, luminous and surprisingly erotic story, director Catrinel Dănăiaţă convincingly delves into a very contemporary topic, exploring the personal crisis of George (Bogdan Dumitrache), a young and talented architect, in Double [+see also:
film profile], screening in East of the West at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival. Although his life seems more than perfect, it is actually far from it, and Dănăiaţă efficiently uses the film’s 100 minutes in order to outline the abyss in which her protagonist is struggling.
Although it is far from being the first Romanian film not to take its inspiration from the dark-grey-almost-black aspects of the local realities or the communist era, Double is still a rara avis in the Romanian New Wave, drawing inspiration from a social class usually ignored by local filmmakers: the hip middle class, with their good jobs and comfortable lives. But comfort doesn’t means happiness, and George’s problems, no matter how banal, feel real.
George seems to have it all. He is the author of an architecture project that has already passed the first stages of a contest in Shanghai. Surrounded by hard-partying friends and a girlfriend, Corina (Corina Moise), who gives him all the freedom he could desire, he almost has an obligation to be happy. But things are quite different in reality: his relationship with his boss (Dorian Boguţă) gets more and more strained as the deadline for the Chinese contest approaches, while George thinks Corina is irritatingly clingy. An encounter with a laid-back, beautiful young woman (Maria Dinulescu) in a club brings mystery and also an unnerving feeling of being “out of place” to the protagonist’s life.
Dănăiaţă infuses her debut feature with a quiet eroticism that looks very impressive on the big screen, helped by Dumitrache’s chemistry with both Moise and Dinulescu. Pătru Păunescu’s permanently fixed camera turns the viewer into a silent spectator of George’s life, never interfering with his actions. Another departure from your average, recent Romanian feature is the attentive art direction by Grigore Puscariu, who uses colourful designer goods in order to help build up George’s beautiful, high – but fragile – castle, from the top of which he will soon tumble.
The director expertly uses space and contrasts in order to explore George’s limits. As a counterpoint to his apartment and his office, there is his cousin’s fenceless backyard: an ocean of green to swallow up all the dark thoughts. For all the noisy clubs and streets, there is also the noisy quietness of the seaside. Although these contrasts feel studied, they are efficient in stressing George’s slow crawl to the edge of the abyss.
Written by Alexandra Axinte and Andreea Bortun, the screenplay suffers somewhat because of its lack of ambition: the elements of the puzzle are slowly placed on the table, but the final result is exactly what one would expect from the very beginning, which makes Double only an assured, but watchable and definitely promising, new first feature from Romania.