- Romania's Cristi Puiu delivers the most immobile and hostile of his bleak but accurate perspectives on today's society with his dissection of what we experienced in 2020
How to talk about what happened in 2020 at a safe distance? With the immediate and always somewhat empty experiments of the year of the Covid-19 pandemic well behind him, Cristi Puiu has thought that it is time to answer this question, even if it is hard for many to see themselves reflected in the portrait where the Romanian master of dissecting society captures the gloomy flip side of the refreshing slogans of hope ("we'll come out of this better"). MMXX [+see also:
interview: Cristi Puiu
film profile] (the Roman numeral for the year in question) is the film presented in competition at the 71st San Sebastián International Film Festival in which the acclaimed filmmaker invites us to reflect.
Through four independent stories (or almost, since three of them are connected by recurring characters), the director of Sieranevada [+see also:
Q&A: Cristi Puiu
film profile] and The Death of Mr Lazarescu [+see also:
film profile] returns to choral portraits to... try to capture the human condition, nothing more and nothing less. In the first story, a young therapist (Bianca Cuculici) receives a new client with a mask on, and, after removing it for comfort, makes the client, with a significant narcissism (perhaps inadvertently exacerbated by the difficult situation?), self-assess her place among the people around her, and ultimately, in the world. In the second, the same therapist, at home with her brother (Laurențiu Bondarenco) and her partner (Florin Țibre), deals with a worrying phone call from an agitated friend with a pregnant girlfriend who is urgently admitted to hospital for Covid-19 while cooking dinner. In the third, the therapist's partner, a paramedic, waits for Covid-19 test results talking to his colleague, a young Moldovan (Igor Babiac) who has emigrated to Romania looking to succeed as an actor but, for the time being, works as an ambulance driver. And in the fourth story, an organised crime inspector (Dragoș Bucur) whose colleague has just committed suicide investigates a complex case of human trafficking during the funeral of the investigator's own partner in a rural area.
Puiu displays his usual ability to explore the characters, and the central themes of their stories, through their conversations, long and lively, sometimes dizzying and overwhelming. However, in this case, unlike in his more brilliant films mentioned above (and with a slight exception in the first story), with no concessions to humour. The process becomes arduous, especially in some passages of lesser narrative value (such as the third story), clearly because the director feels that there is nothing in that situation to address in a positive light. Puiu presents his characters by commenting on the differences between European countries (with xenophobia hovering over them) and even mentioning the term "mankurt", a slave who has no will of their own, perhaps to criticise what society attempted to do during the year in question. These comments, which are in keeping with his somewhat controversial statements at the time, channel his weariness with society, which continued to do its own thing in a situation as complex as this one, and which he slaps in the face with his fourth story where other misfortunes and illnesses are discussed that were objectively tougher than Covid-19.
So, Puiu continues his hard-hitting filmography with a new instalment of his bleak but accurate perspectives on today's society (with the exception of Malmkrog [+see also:
interview: Cristi Puiu
film profile]), with the thorniest and most hostile of them all, because of its austere cinematographic approach (more immobile, less entertaining) and because it hits too close to home for us all.
MMXX is produced by Mandragora and Block Media Management, in co-production with the French company Shellac, the Romanian Actoriedefilm.ro and Chainsaw Europe and the Moldovan company YOUBESC Film. Shellac manages the international sales.
(Translated from Spanish by Vicky York)
Photogallery 25/09/2023: San Sebastián 2023 - MMXX
16 pictures available. Swipe left or right to see them all.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.