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Director and script author Marius Olteanu, at his first feature film, demonstrates in 'Monsters' that he knows the job. The film, which on these days made its debut on the Romanian screens in Cluj at TIFF and which I saw yesterday at a LGBT film festival at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, is professionally made and has many interesting ideas in its conception, is acted well by a team of actors who are guided with a safe hand, and has a modern, intimate and minimalist theme with references to the Romanian social realities. All the ingredients for a successful film are present, except for one - emotion.
The film describes 24 hours of the lives of Dana and Arthur (or perhaps Andrei, both names are used in the film), a childless couple of professionals in Bucharest, both approaching their 40s. The story is reported at first from the woman's perspective, then from that of the man, in segments dealing with the same hours in the life of the two, connected with a phone call. Then they get together for the third part of the story. The characters are slow to reveal themselves, we realize gradually that this is a couple in crisis, that this crisis lasts for a long time, that each of them seeks happiness separately, but they also can not live without each other. Why do not they split up? Why do they stay together? Spectators are left to find their own answers. If they exist.
Potentially this an intimate and interesting narrative about two people living an unusual love story, about a relationship that falls apart under social pressure but still refuses to disappear altogether. In the context of the debates about the 'traditional family' (in Romania but not only), the film also has a political message, discreetly expressed and not as a manifest. Yet, despite the potential, the film has some execution problems. One of them is length and repeatability. It does not take five screen minutes to express what viewers can understand in thirty seconds (the taxi scenes are an example). There is too little happening between the two characters, and what's interesting in the story are mostly the side episodes (the gay couple encounter, the chat with the taxi driver). The two lead actors, Judith State and Cristian Popa are very good but they are both too introspect, which makes it difficult to identify with them from the viewers' perspective. The cinematic ideas are interesting (the parallel segments of action in time, the use of the variable screen formats) but in the absence of emotion, they seem like demonstrative. I also enjoyed Alexandru Potocean and Serban Pavlu's performances in supporting roles. I look forward to the future movies of Marius Olteanu with the hope that the artistic but first of all human emotions will come to meet his incontestable cinematic skills.
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