When I read that a film is almost three hours long, my heart skips a beat. A three-hour long film can mean two things – a masterpiece that cannot be contained in a mere 90-120-minute frame like most films, like There Will be Blood or A Prophet, or a bore of a self-indulgent piece of ego massaging, like Love 3D (don’t get me started). Sieranevada, sitting at seven minutes short of the three-hour mark, is interestingly a bit of both: half self-indulgent, half masterpiece.
To say that an average moviegoer would find this utterly entertaining would be a lie. After all, the masters of the Romenian new wave, Puiu amongst them, never made films for the masses, but for a fanatic cinema lover who is sure to enjoy the never ending discussions as they unfold in a claustrophobically small Bucharest apartment.
The film depicts the death anniversary of a family’s patriarch, with extended friends and family also present to celebrate the life of a dead man, and to crucify each other over everything else, from 9/11 to Ceausescu, from class to extramarital affairs. All of it is done without the misery such description brings to mind, but instead with a lightness of touch that brought many a laugh from the audience.
The camera often stands in one spot as characters enter and exit rooms, doors are opened and closed, snippets of conversations are heard to quickly disappear behind doors. Puiu cleverly uses the lack of space to his advantage, making us feel cramped in the room with everyone else, silent spectators in this social farce.
Through the many dramatic arguments, Puiu travels the length of issues to expose Romanian society as a whole, interestingly interweaving issues of class, family, politics and history into a personal tale. For all the cinema lovers out there, this is not one to miss… for the rest of you, steer away.