Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Calin Peter Netzer
Stars: Luminata Gheorgiou, Bogdan Dumitrache, Natasa Raab, Adrien Titieni.
We don’t get an opportunity to see much cinema from Romania outside of film festivals here, and those few we do see (like 4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days, etc) are often fairly grim and highly critical of society. Child’s Pose is one of those rare films from the new wave of Romanian cinema that has emerged onto the international scene, and has been garnering great reviews and lots of praise. And its leading lady Luminata Gheorgiou, from The Death Of Mr Lazarescu, etc) has been attracting lots of praise and accolades for her performance as a heartless matriarch who stops at nothing to make her opinions count.
Gheorgiou plays Cornelia, a privileged 60something socialite and respected architect who is estranged from her rather selfish son Barbu (Bogdan Dumitrache). But when he is involved in a hit and run accident that leaves a teenaged boy dead and a family devastated, Cornelia rushes in and tries to take charge. The iron-willed Cornelia throws her weight around and uses her influence to bludgeon the cops and witnesses into changing their statements in an effort to ensure that Barbu escapes the consequences of his actions. And she even tries to use some emotional blackmail on the victim’s family to try and avoid justice. Barbu wishes that she would stay out of his business, and grows sullen and resentful of her meddling.
Child’s Pose explores a smothering and unhealthy mother/son relationship and features a number of morally flawed characters. Gheorgiou gives a dynamic and powerful performance as the cold, manipulative and dominating mother, and her chilling performance drives the film. Her performance has invited comparisons to Jackie Weaver’s domineering crime family matriarch in Animal Kingdom, which is high praise indeed.
The deeply disturbing Child’s Pose is the new film from Romanian filmmaker Calin Peter Netzer, known for his dramas like Maria, etc, and was a big winner at last year’s Berlin Film Festival. Co-written by Netzer and Ravzan Radulescu (the aforementioned 4 Months, etc), the film is an exploration of class and corruption in contemporary Bucharest. It features many of the stylistic touches and visual flourishes common to much of Romanian cinema, including long takes and abrupt cuts. But here Netzer and his cinematographer Andrei Butica (The Death Of Mr Lazarescu, etc) also overuse the handheld camera in the early scenes, which detracts from the drama.
The final scenes though are quite intense and harrowing, and here Butica uses close up to heighten the impact. Netzer is obviously highly judgemental about Cornelia’s behaviour and he shapes the film deliberately in such a way that we also become repulsed by her monstrous actions.