Sieranevada (2016) | Cannes Competition 2016
Writer|Director: Cristi Puiu
Cast: Mimi Branescu, Mirela Apostu, Eugenia Bosanceanu, Ana Ciontea, Ilona Brezoianu
123min | Drama | Romania | France | Bosnia
Almost all of Romanian director Cristi Puiu’s films belong to slow cinema and a New Wave movement called meta cinema: and SIERANEVADA, his Palme D’Or hopeful here at the 69th Edition of Cannes Film Festival is no different. In a similar vein to The Death of Mr Lazarescu, this is a rich and rewarding drama that plays out as its protagonists take each moment as it comes during the lengthy pre-prandial preceedings. Intimate in scale yet far-reaching in its implications, the director’s fifth feature explores differing opinions during a family get together to commemorate the death of a patriarch (his father) which occurred the previous year. In Bucharest Lary (Branescu) is at the peak of his professional career as a neurologist, just home from a business trip to deal with the assembled family and the arrival of the priest.
Lary’s mother sexagenarian Nasu Mirica (Dana Dogaru) invites the extended family to the small apartment which she shared with her late husband, Emil. The event starts with the usual smalltalk and bickering and the dialogue is sharp and dilatory, in common with other Romanian New Wave filmmakers such as Corneliu Porumboiu, Radu Jude and Razvan Radulescu (the latter also co-wrote Mr Lazarescu).
This is a meal that never gets started as the narrative grows more complex as a philandering husband (Sorin Medelini) arrives in a cloud of shame followed by Cami (Ilona Brezoianu) with a friend who is already drunk and ten or so members of the clan. Discussions run from the 9/11 conspiracy theories to Communism with Lary and Laura making us feel very much part of the scene thanks to cinematographer Barbu Balasoiu’s eye level camerawork that glides and darts from face to face and room to room of the crampted apartment as political, moral or religious views are tailored and compromised depending on which family group they belong to and has ultimately forged their identity from birth. It’s an occasion where Lary learn a great deal about himself and changing attitudes and perceptions of him from all concerned.
Amusing, complicated and opaque, SIERANEVADA develops Mr Lazarescu further but most of the characters and their backstories are not fully explored – despite its generous running time. Enjoyable though if you fancy a afternoon of Romanian cultural enlightenment in the company of one of the best Romanian New Wave directors currently on the scene. MT