Romania, 2010, 181 minutes, Colour.
Cristi Puiu, Clara Voder.
Directed by Cristi Puiu.
Puiu’s previous film, The Death of Mr Lazarescu, was a fine cinema experience and contributed to the flowering of the contemporary Romanian film industry. Anyone familiar with the earlier film would be looking forward to Aurora.
Puiu has done it again, in the sense that he takes his time with developing characters and plot, spending a great deal of time and attention on minute details of behaviour, with minimum musical score. However, with the theme of death and ambulance and hospital care with Mr Lazrescu, audience attention is willingly given. This time, with the film at three hours, audiences may find the experience admirable but sometimes trying (even often!).
When we have to spend three hours observing closely a character who is enigmatic to the point of an audience not wanting to understand him, taciturn and abrupt in behaviour, who, we realise, as he purchases a gun, has killing in mind, it is very difficult. Puiu plays the central character himself, so it is very much his film.
1. Puiu and his film work, as a director, writer, actor? His film?
2. The intention of a series of stories from outer suburbia of Bucharest? Tales like those of Eric Rohmer? Moral fables?
3. The portrait of Bucharest, apartments and streets, shops, factories, driving around the city, the police precinct?
4. The minimal musical score?
5. The length of the film, its visual style, the long takes, dialogue and silences, a theatrical presentation of performance blending with editing processes? The attitude to detail, minute detail? The effect on the audience, being there, observing the character, judging him or not?
6. The drab colour for the opening, for a drab world? A grey world, morally? Morally ambiguous?
7. The ending and the portrait of a killer? Behaviour, the puzzle about him, his mind and emotions – or not seeing or understanding them? His final confession and statement? The value of spending three hours with him?
8. The opening, the dark, people waking up, the focus on Viorel and Gina? The family, its behaviour, Gina screaming at the children, reprimanding them? The discussion about Red Riding Hood, the grandmother coming out of the wolf naked because the wolf was wearing Grandma’s clothes? Or the wolf getting them from the wardrobe? Gina and her relationship with her husband?
9. Viorel in himself, divorced, his children, his mother and her companion, their visits to his house, new apartment? Decorating, his possessions, discussions with the carriers and taking stuff away, bringing things in?
10. The shower, the flood, Gina and her reprimanding the boy, the father bringing him for an apology, offering to pay?
11. Viorel going to the factory, the clash, getting the firing pins? The long process at the shop of buying the gun, the case, carrying it round?
12. The long shot of his visit to his mother’s apartment block, the mother and her friend, the friend coming down, Viorel not liking him? The clash? Seeing his mother’s home as his home, wanting his room closed?
13. Driving around the city, observing, what was going on in his mind, silent, the house and the testing of the gun, going to the carpark, shooting the notary, the woman there accidentally? No feeling?
14. Searching for his wife, going to the shop, his attitude towards the shop assistants, interrogations, their responses?
15. Going to the school, getting his daughter, the rehearsals, the teacher’s reaction? Dressing her, taking her to the neighbour, the men chatting before lunch, the neighbour and her welcoming the daughter, the questions about what she could eat or not?
16. Going to the in-laws, shooting them?
17. Going to the police, with the gun, confessing? His complaint about the rough search? The indolent police, busy about other things, keeping him waiting, having cups of coffee, the phone call testing the truth, getting his statement down in writing, using a biro? Listening? The invitation for him to write his statement? His detailed and meticulous answers to their questions?
18. The sudden ending – and the future for Viorel?