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BERLINALE 2016 Forum

Illegitimate: A switch of perspectives


- BERLIN 2016: Adrian Sitaru’s independent feature may cause a stir with its uncomfortable story

Shown in the Forum sidebar of the Berlinale, Adrian Sitaru’s fourth feature, Illegitimate [+see also:
interview: Adrian Sitaru
film profile
, is a return to the director’s independent beginnings. Made with no support from the Romanian National Film Center (where it was ignored probably because of its uncomfortable topic), Illegitimate is both a dysfunctional family drama and an analysis of perspectives.

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Written by Alina Grigore and Adrian Sitaru, the film centres on the Anghelescu family, comprising the father, Victor (Adrian Titieni, excellent as always in portraying a conflicted, almost hysterical character), and his grown-up children Sasha (Grigore), Romeo (Robi Urs), Cosma (Bogdan Albulescu) and Gilda (Cristina Olteanu). Apparently they all live happily in a big house, but a family dinner will show how easily disrupted their life is. 

The topic of abortion crops up during the relaxed banter, and the pater familias, a gynaecologist happy to pepper the conversation with musings such as “He who controls time will be the new God”, will find himself the target of his offspring’s furious questions: did he or did he not denounce to the communist authorities women who wanted to get an abortion before the 1989 Revolution? Victor’s reaction and his position on the matter sow the seeds of an interesting evolution in the family’s life.

From the very beginning, it is obvious that twins Sasha and Romeo share more than an affinity for booze and strong colours. They share a room and also a bed, and Illegitimate suddenly swaps a difficult topic, abortion, for another: incest. Sitaru takes his time in order to show how his characters think, how they process their relationship and, when it is no longer a secret, how they cope with the reactions of those around them.

In the end, Illegitimate is more a difficult love story than an analysis of incest, and in spite of a few unconvincing lines and characters’ reactions, the viewer is drawn into a compelling family drama that shows how easy it is to judge from the outside and how things change when you are a protagonist of a certain situation. The film also tentatively searches for the boundary between the acceptable and the unacceptable, and it is obvious that this border can shift easily.

Grigore is very good as Sasha, closely followed by Urs as Romeo. Albulescu is also very convincing as the quiet Cosma, the elder brother who tries to nudge his family into the acceptable area of society. Mixing professional actors with amateurs, Sitaru leaves room for some overacting, and a few overly harsh-sounding moments in the conversations occasionally shatter the credibility and make one wonder how different Illegitimate would have looked with a proper budget. The unconvincing ending, accompanied by a rather perplexing monologue by Victor, seems cobbled together in a hurry.

Illegitimate was produced by Domestic Film, and co-produced by Damned Film (France) and Film Producja (Poland). The 85-minute drama is handled internationally by Versatile Film. The domestic release is set for 18 March.

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