Corneliu Porumboiu


(Copyright © 2012 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )

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Corneliu Porumboiu (Romania, 1975) debuted with 12:08 East of Bucharest (2006), named after the moment captured live on television when the communist regime collapsed.

Politist Adjectiv/ Police Adjective (2009), filmed in a sparse documentary style and set in a desolate urban landscape, is the mundane story of a crisis of conscience. Placed in the context of detective films, this film is the drama of a cop who is not allowed to do the cop. All he can do is waste his time and his talent pursuing a pointless case against someone who constitutes no threat to society. None of the usual traits of detective films is present: no shootouts, no car chases, no interrogations, in fact neither violence nor suspense. The filmmaker makes sure that we perceive the protagonist's waste of time by wasting our time in lengthy takes about irrelevant facts. This cop's job is neither glamorous nor corrupt, the two classic themes of detective films, both of which (despite being opposites) express the fact that the cop has no conscience, just a practical mission. This is, instead, a case of conscience by a citizen who ponders about his role in society, and therefore there is no need for an archenemy or a horrible crime. His real job, the job he invents for himself, is the job of critizing the mindless bureaucracy that turns real lives into mere linguistic affairs (his reports, his captain's definitions). This is Kafka who refuses to live in an absurd Kafkian world. There are two metaphors for this. The first one is the high-tech computer monitor in the cop's home that contrasts with the stone-age computer monitor in his office (bureaucracy is stuck in an age that doesn't exist anymore while ordinary people have moved on). The second one is the very tool that the superior uses to fight the cop's conscience: an old-fashioned paper vocabulary. Unlike Ionesco, who would have represented the senseless rules of society with a senseless story, this director uses the barest os realistic techniques and therefore enhances the awareness of the absurd. The only problem with this poignant drama is that the rhythm of the film is really slow.

The country has a draconian law against drug use, even if the drugs are harmless drugs like marijuana. An undercover detective, Cristi, who has just returned from his honeymoon abroad, is assigned the case of a kid, Victor, who smokes marijuana. The detective has evidence that would send the kid to jail for years but, knowing that in most countries abroad this is a trivial offense, is reluctant to carry out the arrest. The country's laws are obsolete and will soon change and he doesn't want to ruin the life of a kid for a law that will change soon.
The one who informed the police about Victor is actually one of Victor's friends, Alex. Cristi is suspicious of the motives of this kid for betraying is friend and so he follows him home. Alex lives in a nice, recently remodeled house, a sign of wealth, and quite a difference from the working-class look of Victor (and of Cristi himself). Cristi waits outside and sees Victor's girlfriend arrive. When she leaves, Cristi starts following her. It's a long walk to a different, much poorer, part of town. Back home, his wife Anca is watching a video of a pop song on the computer's screen. They are a semiotic discussion on words and images as symbols. She is the highly educated one, he objects with common sense. The following day he completes the procedure for filing his report on the case. He is avoiding his captain because he senses that the captain will ask him to carry out the arrest. Cristi's last hope is to draw attention to what could be a much bigger danger to the public: the dealer who brings the dope from abroad. In his report he thus emphasizes that the girl's brother, Iulian, who travels abroad all the time, could be the source of the drugs. His wife has read the report and, over lunch, tells him that he made a grammatical mistake, a highly technical issue that he can't even understand. She is a teacher in the same high school where Victor and Alex go.. He is surprised to learn that there is an academy specifically to decide what is grammatically correct. As he waits for the meeting with his captain, Cristi is pensive and insecure. The captain reads the report and orders him to arrest Victor. Cristi protests that the kid would be unfairly punished while letting the dealer get away, and that there is something suspicious about the fact that Alex squealed on his friend. The captain responds by asking him to write down his definition of conscience: Cristi writes that it's about not doing something that one will regret later. Then the captain asks his secretary to bring a vocabulary and tells Cristi to read the definitions of "conscience". He can now compare his own definition and the one in the vocabulary: they are wildly different. Then the captain asks him to read the definition of "law" and explains that in order to avoid chaos the state make laws, otherwise each person would have her or his own laws. And cops are there to enforce the law. The captain, playing psychologist, tells Cristi that he has forgotten what he is: he is a police officer, who has to enforce the law. Cristi realizes that he has not choice but to do his job.

Comoara/ The Treasure (2015) is a surrealistic farce reminiscent of the Czech madcap social comedies of Milos Forman and Jiri Menzel but reinforced by a lightweight satire of Romania's own destiny. The decrepit house is in itself a metaphoric historical journey into Romania's national history and psyche because it has changed function over time depending on who was running the country. It is also the fairy tale of a frustrated middle-aged married man and government worker who suddenly can escape his boring routine with an exciting adventure. The mythological dimension of the Robin Hood legend that his son is just beginning to learn becomes reality for the father.

Costi is a devout father who reads "Robin Hood" to his little son. One day his neighbor Adrian comes to ask for money. He is late in his mortgage payments and his business has been ruined by the economic crisis. Costi honestly cannot help because he himself can barely make ends meet. Adrian comes back telling him that his rich great-grandfather, when the communist revolution started, hid a treasure that was never found and, now that Adrian has got back the property after the anti-communist revolution, he offers Costi half of it if they find it. The money that Adrian needs is to rent a metal detactor. Costi's wife is neither enthralled nor hostile to the idea. Meanwhile, Costi's son has a problem: a bully keeps hitting him. Costi cannot afford the professional metal detector but the amateur Cornel offers to help him for half the price. The professional, however, warns him that any ancient item must be reported to the authorities and the finders are entitled only to 30% of its value. Adrian is ready to cheat the system but Costi goes along with the plan only after Adrian accepts to respect the law. Costi needs an excuse to leave work. It turns out that his boss thinks that Costi is having an affair with his colleague Liliana. This is not true but Costi finds it convenient to admit that he does have an affair with another woman because he senses the boss is going to support his extramarital affair as a kind of manly thing to do. Costi and Adrian drive to the old country home and are joined by Cornel. Cornel brings two metal detectors but doesn't seem to know how to operate them. One is connected to a computer and creates a three-dimensional map of the underground. The other one is a traditional one that beeps all the time: either too sensitive or simply worn out. Cornel maps the territory and marks where the duo should dig. They pick a promising site and start digging. It gets dark and they are still digging. The metal detector keeps beeping in the same point. Adrian loses his patience and starts accusing Cornel of being incompetent. Cornel packs his metal detectors and leaves after being paid by Costi. Costi keeps digging, even when the hole is taller than him. Just when Adrian has lost faith and is telling Costi to give up, Costi finds a metal box. They cannot open it with their tools and plan to ask for the help of a professional thief, Lica. They load the box in the car and are about to leave the house when a police car pulls in. It is the middle of the night. Someone must have told the police that they were looking for a treasure. Costi, scared, immediately tells the police that they found a treasure and that they were about to deliver it to the police as the law mandates. The police is not any luckier than them in opening the box so they call the thief. The thief takes a while but finally the box is open and inside there is indeed a treasure: German stock certificates worth a fortune. What they didn't expect is that the treasure dates from the year of the fall of communism, not from the great-grandfather's time. Adrian has no idea who could have buried that treasure: the house was a strip-bar in those days. And the good news is that it is German stuff, which is not subject to confiscation by the government. The police gives them back the box and they sell the shares. Costi invests a lot of money into jewels and brings them to his son, who is dreaming of a Robin Hood-kind of treasure. The child and other children take all the jewels and start arguing.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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(Copyright © 2012 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )