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19th Chicago European Union Film Festival 2016 – AFERIM!

March 9, 2016

aferim

 

written by: Radu Jude and Florin Lazarescu
produced by: Ada Solomon
directed by: Radu Jude
rated: unrated
runtime: 108 min.
release date: March 6, 2015 (Romania) and March 6 & March 9, 2016 (Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago, IL)

 

The one film of the festival that feels like Bergman, Kurosawa and John Ford all wrapped in one Don Quijote type tale is director Radu Jude’s “Aferim!”  This dark black-and-white dramedy with its ironic title (which means “Bravo!”) earned Best Director at the 2015 Berlin Film Festival and pays homage to timeless classics of the westerns and samurai genres.

Set in 1835 Wallachia, this period piece co-written by Jude and Florin Lazarescu, is essentially a road trip that opens itself up to an observation of the human tendency to give into both brutal and carnal desires. We observe such behavior from the perspective of Costandin (Teodor Corban) a local and loyal constable who acts out such behavior as well as he travels with his son/apprentice, Ionita (Mihai Comănoiu). They scour the countryside, searching for a runaway Gypsy slave, Carfin (Toma Cuzin) with the goal of returning him to Iordache (Alexandru Dabija) a wealthy boyar, to face the repercussions of having an affair with Sultana (Luminița Gheorghiu), the boyar’s wife. Along the way, the father and son encounter characters and situations that offer moments of philosophical discussions and levity as well as harsh moments of cruelty they will never forget. Jude is a skillful director, assisted by stark and widescreen cinematography from Marius Panduru (who shot in 35mm) and is gifted with natural and authentic performances from the lead trio. Their journey could’ve benefited from a slight trim in editing, but there is certainly something to admire in each frame of “Aferim!” amid its profane study of gender, racism and religion.

Impressive and affective, “Aferim!” stays with you and requires much digestion long after viewing. It reminded me of last year’s release of the 2013 science fiction film “Hard to Be a God” which was also a dirty look at the banal behavior of humanity. Although it was Romania’s official Oscar submission last year, it did not make the cut. It’s final showing at the Chicago European Union Film Festival at the Gene Siskel Film Center is tonight at 8pm. 

 

Aferim-2016

 

RATING: ****

 

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