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Domestic

Dir/scr.: Adrian Sitaru. Romania. 2013. 85mins

More than anything else, this looks like a counter experiment aimed at complementing Adrian Sitaru’s debut feature Hooked. While his earlier film was shot with a constantly moving, handheld, camera looking at his three characters from the point-of-view of each other – and sometimes from pretty weird angles - this series of stand-up parodies on the theme of dysfunctional families, hardly ever indulges in any camera movement at all.

With no real plot to rely on, and no character ever explored beyond the depth of an amusing caricature, Sitaru’s film moves forward on the strength of his abundant dialogue.

Each one of these sketches, consisting of overlong and often overlapping dialogue, are shot from one - or at most two static set-ups - each, with the script delivered at top speed and characters urgently talking over each other, to make their points. The film screened at the Transilvania International Film Festival.

A kind of chiding, metaphoric image of contemporary Romania, this cluster of characters who share the same block of flats and have a particularly difficult time living together or making up their minds about anything, may provide some insights, albeit roundabout ones, into the country’s general climate.

Though the tribulations of two couples, the Lazars (Adrian Titieni and Clara Voda) and their daughter, and the Mihaes (Gheorghe Ifrim and Ioana Flora) with their son,  take up most of the time, the subject tying together all their sketches as well as those involving their neighbors, is apparently the way all of the characters in the film are treating the domestic animals who are supposed to be man’s best friends.

The real issue is, of course, not the animals but the people themselves, their convoluted way of justifying themselves by putting the blame on others, their self-incriminating tirades and their incapacity to defend their positions for any length of time.

Who is going to get rid of a neighbor’s dog; which member of the family is capable of cutting a live chicken’s throat; who will assume the responsibility for sending a live rabbit into the pot; how to treat a lame pigeon and the risks of keeping a cat…all these are just excuses for the conflicts and the endless arguments between husband and wife and between both of them and their children, who act like precocious spoiled brats who never take no for answer and keep arguing until they get their way. All this looks and sounds pretty authentic, but at same time not particularly original, interesting or significant.

With no plot to rely on, and no character ever explored beyond the depth of an amusing caricature, Sitaru’s film moves forward on the strength of his abundant dialogue, which seems to be the key feature of his entire picture. But the satire, spiked with a touch of tragedy arbitrarily thrown in, probably to round up the metaphor, never tries to peep behind the facades, offering very little reason to be either moved or excited.

The decision to shoot almost the entire film indoors, in ordinary flats, with the camera placed at one end and never budging while the actors assume most of the responsibilities of the action, may have been intended to underline the squeezed quarters and social standards, but the result is too often uncomfortably reminiscent of stage performances shot with a single camera, the visual economy not necessarily determined by esthetic considerations.

Production company/sales: 4 Proof Film, monica@4prooffilm.ro

Producer: Monica Lazurean-Gorgan

Cinematography: Adrian Silisteanu

Editors: Andrei Gorgan, Adrian Sitaru

Production designer: Cristian Niculescu

Music: Sebastian Zsemlye, Adrian Sitaru

Main cast: Adrian Titieni, Gheorghe Ifrim, Sergiu Costache, Clara Voda, Ioana Flora, Dan Hurduc, Ariadna Titieni

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