The Second Game
(Al doilea joc)

Directed by Corneliu Porumboiu.
Romania, 2014, digital video, color, 97 min.
Romanian with English subtitles.

Porumboiu’s talent for shaving extraneous cinematic elements away to expose a surprisingly rich understatement is taken to a mildly ironic extreme in his first documentary. With simply a snowy soccer match from 1988 playing on the screen, he discusses the game with his father who was the referee—with no cuts, in real time. The winter before Ceausescu fell, Steaua, the army’s team plays Dinamo, the police’s. While wistfully admiring Romania’s top players, his father’s commentary alternates between criticism and nostalgia—how things have changed in football and in Romania. Amid technical remarks, he blithely describes the frightening pressures applied to referees who were often also international informers. He also notes what is not being seen: “In the Communist era, you couldn’t show bad sportsmanship.” Subtle layers of silenced poetry and painterly beauty develop over the course of the snowy game replayed now in the analog haze of VHS.

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