• Golden Globe Awards

Sieranevada (Romania)

In 2005, Cristi Puiu’s The Death of Mr Lazarescu was seen by many as the birth of the Romanian New Wave. Along with his equally uncompromising compatriots, Cristian Mungiu, Corneliu Porumboiu, Radu Jude and Adrian Sitaru, he made their country’s cinema relevant again, with its minimalism, austere realism and bleak subject matter.Sieranevada, only Puiu’s third movie in eleven years, takes place in a cramped Bucharest apartment where, forty days after the passing of his father, Lary, a doctor in his forties, has joined his extended family to pay respects to the departed.  As the table is being set and prepared dishes start to accumulate, everyone has to wait. The priest supposed to supervise the ritual at the wake keeps being delayed. Crisscrossed conversations flourish. Assorted topics trigger escalading confrontations, confessions and tensions. Nothing is off limits: conspiracy theories, 9/11, the attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris on January 10, 2015 (actually the precise day the movie takes place), Romanian monarchy, the aftermath of Ceausescu’s death and the legacy of years of communist regime. A revealing pressure cooker of secrets and lies, neuroses, sibling rivalries, extra marital affairs… as the suspense exponentially grows: will the guests finally sit down and eat dinner together?Allergic to family reunions? With Sieranevada, Puiu offers the ultimate catharsis. Like a seismograph registering constantly moving tectonic plates, his camera is there to observe and monitor, the audience becoming the voyeuristic participant in the unpredictable maelstrom unfolding. “This is an autobiographical and very personal film,” Cristi Puiu explains. “The idea came to me at my father’s funeral in 2007. I wanted to tell this story from an entirely subjective point of view. I also like to work with constraints like here inside the small space of the apartment. And I had in mind verses of a William Blake’s famous poem: ‘To See a World in a Grain of Sand/ /Hold Infinity in the Palm of Your Hand/And Eternity in One Hour’…”Clocking at almost three hours (173 minutes to be exact) mirrors the preoccupations of a fractured society in a country trying to face a still uncertain future, both political and sociological…Between laughter and tears, the humor is distilled in the vein of the Italian comedies à la Dino Risi and Pietro Germi, with Pirendellian twists and echoes of Luis Bunuel’s The Exterminating Angel. “It seems we are always out of synch with each other in view of the same event,” acknowledges Puiu. “That’s what makes it comical: the relativity of truth, the failing of memory, the variable of the interpretation of history…The pendulum of life.”As for the choice of the enigmatic title, the 49-year old filmmaker offers a cryptic answer. “It’s in reaction to everyone complaining it wasn’t spelled right! It needed to evoke a place, like the snow-capped mountains which resemble many buildings from the communist era, blocks and block of light stones….In reality, any title could have worked but you cannot say that! How it came to me is a mystery. And many things in life are mysterious.”