Friday, December 9, 2016

Sieranevada


Directed by: Cristi Puiu
Starring: Mimi Branescu, Judith State, Bogdan Dumitrache, etc.
Release date: December 09, 2016 (Dubai International Film Festival)

Sieranevada starts on a promising shot, one that seasoned film-goers will savour for how it is set up and the promise it holds for the rest of the movie. A single long-take, it observes a family on a street-side corner as they go about an everyday task – stopping their car in an artery road (blocking traffic) while the daughter is dropped off at her grandmother’s, the father then quickly moving the car to take it round the block while the mother and daughter wait for the father to drive back.

It makes for a wonderful and well-executed prologue: the performance of the actors, the swivelling of the camera (fixed at one spot) to follow the characters, and the inaudible conversations between the family members. It suggests humour in how easy it is to identify with the mundane activity on-screen. Post-title the movie continues this tone, with another single long-take shot from within the car. The film plays out in this fashion for its near 3-hour runtime. The rest of the movie after those initial scenes is mostly set inside one apartment, during an extended family get-together for a memorial dinner on the death-anniversary of the patriarch.

As is with such movies, we discover about the various family members through their interactions and their personalities are unravelled over time. But midway through the movie, it stops the unravelling and falls into a loop. Situations stop meaning much, and little more is explored of the characters. One husband displays grievance over his wife going to Carrefour instead of staying home for the all-important prayers – but her absence amounts to little. At one point a story-detour depicts a character behaving like a coward, but is a baffling inert scene since the reasons or aftermath of his cowardice is never explored through the rest of the movie.

Thus, the movie loses any sense of direction for most of its latter half. Without purpose, the endless loop of scenes gets tiring. The director’s over-indulgence in observing his characters and the needlessly long running time becomes the downfall of an ensemble of competent performances and a technically strong movie.

Rating --> 3 out of 5

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