Friday, 7 April 2017

Graduation

Romeo Aldea’s (Adrian Titieni) daughter, Eliza (Maria Dragus), is well on the way to studying at the prestigious University of Cambridge. Romeo wants what is best for his daughter (to leave Romania), but Eliza is attacked and injures her wrist days before her final exams. Without top marks, Eliza cannot attend university in the UK, however an alternative plan has been offered that will ensure Eliza's place at Cambridge, but this dishonest course of action goes against everything Romeo had tried to teach Eliza.
Cristian Mungiu’s style of filmmaking is a perfect fit for morality tale such as Graduation. The way Mungiu places his camera and simply observes what is playing out in front of it gives the film a certain neutrality when putting Romeo Aldea under the microscope. Graduation, on the surface at least, is an indictment of corruption, no matter how small, and how simple, one small act can snowball into something greater. Mungiu simply observes what happens in front of the camera with the use of long, static shots in a sort of mix between his work in 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days and the work of Yasujirō Ozu in films like Tokyo Story (which also simply observed the family unit with a static camerawork and simple framing).

The way the film is shot ensures that its non-judgmental look at the flawed and hypocritical Romeo Aldean. He’s a man with a reputation of being honest, and he has tried to teach his daughter that it is the ideal reputation, but he’s equally culpable at using the corrupt system to his advantage even if it’s for more understandable reasons. This is where the film works because you understand and buy into the reason he’s going against his morals (which doesn’t extend as far as fidelity) as he wants his daughter to escape the world he greatly despises (despite being complicit in it with his lack of action to counter the corrupt world he hates).

Perhaps Romeo Aldean only attempts to deal with the matter by sending his daughter away because there’s no point tackling the issues head on because nothing will be achieved, much like there was no resolution to the subplot of who has been vandalising the Aldean’s family property. Nothing was achieved in the police investigation of Eliza’s attack, highlighting both Romania’s attitudes towards sexual assault and how nothing really gets done without the promise of incentives.

The theme of parental relationships is more central to the story than the theme of corruption as Romeo was willing to go for his daughter to receive the best possible chance in life (which she would not get in Romania). The performances are superb with Adrian Titieni and Maria Dragus helping craft a touching father-daughter relationship in a rather grim unnamed town where communist era architecture still stands as an oppressive legacy of a difficult and very recent past.

5/5

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