(Calin Peter Netzer; Romania; 2009)
This is only the second feature film from Calin Peter Netzer, whose name will not be as recognisable as other Romanian directors heading the Romanian New Wave, such as Cristi Puiu, Cristian Mungiu, or Corneliu Porumboiu. Yet this grand film is an extremely worthy entry into the growing body of work that comprises this creative flowering of Romanian cinema. Buoyed by an extremely engaging lead performance, this tale of a miserly selfish elderly man, who receives a medal honoring his services in WW2 for actions he cannot recall, starts slowly and paces itself patiently. The humour that occurs through his ornery and penny-pinching behaviour in the early stages of the film gives way to a deeper sense of irony, as the reasons for his wife and son not speaking to him are incrementally revealed. The protagonist becomes trapped inside a fervent belief of his importance and relevance, and the film delicately teases out the growing sensation that this man, who does not appear to have the capacity to relate, learn, develop, or atone, is perhaps a metaphor for an old, extinct representation of Romania. The end scene is simple, elegantly composed, and quietly forlorn.