Thursday, December 8, 2016

Romanian Rhapsody

Bacalaureat/Graduation (2016) - Mungiu
Screen Shot 2016-12-08 at 11.03.48 AM
If nothing else, Romanian New Wave has shown that it excels at acute observations on ordinary people navigating through a chronically depressed, highly bureaucratic country- a society strewn with broken promises of capitalism after the collapse of communism. Christian Mungiu, once again, sharply yet subtly illustrates one such case with Bacalaureat. Romeo (Adrian Titieni), a medical doctor, sees his life unraveling before his eyes - having an affair with one of his patients (a single mom school employee) put a strain on his marriage (been sleeping on the couch for a year and a half), his frail old mother has fainting spells due to brain aneurism, so naturally, he puts all his hope on his pretty daughter Eliza getting a good education. Since Romania is so helpless, he is pushing hard for Eliza to go to England to get educated. In order to get a scholarship to go to overseas, she needs to ace Bacalaureat exam, a series of tests at the end of the High School year. But on the way to school one day, Eliza gets sexually assaulted by an escaped convict in a broad daylight. Visibly shaken and disturbed, she doesn't do well on the test next day. Considering all the circumstances, Romeo decides to ask for help of his police chief friend, not only for arresting the attacker of his daughter, but to 'fix' Eliza's test scores. The cop suggests a man in some higher level position in government, who needs a liver transplant. Can Romeo do anything about moving him up on the list of people in waiting ?

This doing favor in return thing and pulling strings in the system get entangled and awkward really quickly. Magda, the long suffering wife, thinks it goes against everything they taught their daughter but doesn't do anything about it since he has been always the doer/decider. To complicate matters even more, her biker boyfriend in town, Eliza also has second thoughts about going to England.

Romeo puts it grimly about the state of the country: he tells Eliza that he and mom decided to stay because they were hopeful but nothing had changed since then. That they tried but failed to move a mountain. That there is no future for the younger generation. And that she deserves better. He even tries (in vain) to revenge his daughter by following one of the suspects. He cries over the dog he ran over with his car. He tries to do right by the women in his life but life keeps throwing curve balls at him.

Bacalaureat draws Romeo's dilemma as a father, as a man, as a Romanian really well. It's an amazingly scripted film that contains all the nuances of the sticky human existence.

No comments:

Post a Comment