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Sieranevada

Screening on Film
Directed by Cristi Puiu.
With Mimi Branescu, Judith State, Bogdan Dumitrache.
Romania/France/Bosnia and Herzegovina/Croatia/Republic of Macedonia, 2016, DCP, color, 173 min.
Romanian with English subtitles.
DCP source: Elle Driver

Deep-seated fears and resentments boil dangerously on the back burner in the crowded apartment where a family gathering takes place, a ceremonial wake to mark forty days since the death of the paterfamilias and give rest to his soul. Unfortunately, the priest is late, and a host of seemingly minor altercations and misunderstandings build into an increasingly chaotic emotional melee centered around the dinner table where the meal is endlessly delayed while the drinks pour all too freely. Laced with often absurdist black humor, the enigmatically titled Sieranevada (purposelessly misspelled) seems determined to derail the dead man’s promised peace as family members punish each other by opening old wounds, all the while set on edge by the 9/11 conspiracy theories obsessively debated by two brothers and the unwelcome appearance of a belligerent relation. Cristi Puiu is one of the leaders of the New Romanian Cinema whose every film invents a new syntax and rhythm to ruminate with trenchant subtlety about history, politics and the terrors of everyday life. In Sieranevada Puiu again uses long duration—recalling The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (2005)—to slowly tangle conflicting, clashing voices and points of view into an extended and disorienting endurance test for the film’s protagonist, an easy-going doctor trying to find a quiet corner to wait out the storm. The almost verité style camerawork embodies the film’s restless, at times desperate, energy as it tries in vain to enter crowded rooms, rarely able to find a clear point of view. The camera could, in fact, be the restless ghost of the deceased, who, outrageously, everyone seems almost to have forgotten.

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