Greetings again from the darkness. Cinematic comedies always face a challenge of the wide variances found in the senses of humor of movie goers. Taking a wry comedy approach narrows the market a bit more, and finally, tying in cultural and historical aspects specific to Romania risks leaving an audience of only the staunchest film festival attendees. Writer/director Corneliu Porumboui (12:08 East of Bucharest) sticks to his creative vision, never once catering to the masses.
Costi (Toma Cuzin) is reading “Robin Hood” to his young son when a knock on the door leads to a conversation with his neighbor Adrian (Adrian Purcanescu). In most movies, theirs would be described as an awkward conversation, but in this world, awkward is normal, so the description doesn’t really fit. However, the Robin Hood story acts a structure to the film, and especially to the actions and thought process of Costi, who fancies himself as a real life Robin Hood, even if it’s possibly only to impress his bullied-at-school son.
Adrian’s pitch to Costi is meant to raise the 800 Euros necessary to hire a professional metal detector in hopes of finding the treasure buried by Adrian’s great-grandfather during WWII. The stage is set for what looks to be the proverbial wild goose chase of an urban legend, but this partnership results in the introduction of Corneliu Cozmei, a real life metal detector professional. The conversation between these three during the dig is at times harsh and lacking any pleasantries … sometimes laden with accusations … and often tying in Romanian history from revolutions to wars and Communist control. It’s here you’re your particular sense of humor will either be rewarded or not. Viewers are treated to the somehow entertaining extended sequence of 3 men digging a hole whilst lighted by car headlights and accompanied by the beeping of the (flawed?) metal detector.
The wry, deadpan comedy is often as uncomfortable as it is funny, and much of the negativity is directed at the bureaucracy of modern day Romania (and human nature in general), including the ridiculous “cultural heritage” fees of any found treasure. This leads to an offbeat scene at the local police station – again, either wry or boring, depending on you. If the viewers have trouble connecting with the characters or the dialogue, perhaps the closing song “Life is Life” (in a guttural performance from Lailbach) will prove to be the best explanation of what was just seen. Most of us can’t name another Romanian comedy … and depending on taste, some will question whether this one qualifies, while others will be googling for more.