If you enjoy watching people walk, this is the movie for you. There are numerous long takes of no dialogue at all of an undercover cop following a possible extremely minor drug dealer in a small Romanian town.
On the back of the DVD box the writeup calls the movie a "masterpiece," but maybe they meant like a masterpiece painting that just hangs there in a museum and does nothing, that's pretty much what this movie does. It tries to play up the fact that words have meanings that vary from the dictionary definition in real life. How profound! I don't need a glacially paced crime drama to tell me that.
Maybe Romanians have far greater patience than Westerners when it comes to storytelling on screen but basically this police procedural is as boring as pretty much any particular day would be for an undercover cop who has to tail a suspect and that suspect does nothing out of the norm.
The DVD itself has just the trailer as an extra but it does have a booklet that has an interview with the director so you can get at what he was trying to say with this movie. Personally, I think he failed as the thing plods so slowly, you can literally disappear for 20 minutes on end and come back to find...oh, yes, more of nothing has happened and you have not really missed a single thing. I know there will be "fillum" students and critics who will disagree with me completely and that I missed the nuances of this Romanian director's "masterpiece," but masterpieces should not put viewers to sleep. That's all I'm saying.
The tag line to this Romanian film is `In a world where crime has no meaning'. I was keen to see this as it is from director Corneliu Porumboiu who did '12:08 East of Bucharest'.
This has a very basic plot in that a cop is assigned a case to target a drug dealer. He spends weeks watching him and staking out his house etc. He then files his report arguing for leniency as the law on drugs is so Draconian. His bosses take a more traditional police approach and he has a crisis of conscience. That is neither a plot spoiler or too short a synopsis as this is a basic film examining conscience. It is not a crime thriller or an action movie, despite having a gun on the cover, the dictionary it lies on is a better representation of this film.
Set in post Stalinist Romania, the settings are all bleak, rotting concrete and badly made roads, which add to the cold feel of the film. There is very little colour too so that when something bright -like a blue bucket- appears on screen I was immediately drawn to it. Whether that is intentional or a reflection on the greyness of the city is unclear.
There is also no background music at all, this adds to the feeling that time is passing slowly and there are many such devices which seem to heighten the mundanity of his job.
This film has many layers but you will have to dig to get them and at 113 minutes running time does seem overly long. However, when it gets moving, things change fairly rapidly. One of the things I love about World Cinema is the different approaches to film making from say Hollywood, but there are downsides too and this film for me required some effort. It felt a bit Kafkaesque so if that is your thing I am sure you will like this presentation.