Ever since the turn of the millennium, Romanian cinema has been on something of a dramatic rise, as this New Wave of critically acclaimed pictures continue to compel audiences across the world, with a distinctly minimalist style of filmmaking, often picking up on severe, naturalistic themes. The latest in the long line of poignant and bleak productions is Calin Peter Netzer’s Child’s Pose, which took home the prestigious Golden Bear Award at Berlin Film Festival. No pressure, then.
We delve into the life of Cornelia Kerenes (Luminita Gheorghiu), a socialite who finds her life turned upside down when she discovers her son Barbu (Bogdan Dumitrache) has been involved in a car accident. Though fearing the worst – it soon transpires that Barbu was in fact the perpetrator and not the victim – as he accidentally ran over a young boy, who tragically died in the event. Cornelia is left devastated by the news – and it’s a situation that gradually declines, as the incident works as a catalyst for a series of family tribulations to come to light, as Barbu distances himself from those closest to him.
Child’s Pose offers an intriguing moral dilemma, as we view this unfortunate set of circumstances from the mother of the culprit, whose leading concern is to ensure her son stays out of prison. The real victim here is the young, deceased child and his family – yet Peter Netzer instead decides to view this from the other perspective, tapping in to how inherent family loyalty unethically kicks in during instances such as this. To some extent, there are shades of We Need to Talk About Kevin, in how we see the mother paying the price for her son’s actions. It’s not quite so immense in scope however, but is therefore more relatable as a result.
The entire film hinges on this one pivotal, life-changing moment – and yet we don’t even see it. Such a technique ties in with Peter Netzer’s decision to only see the world through his protagonist, Cornelia, as the viewer doesn’t see anything she isn’t there to witness – such as some hugely important conversations, which happen silently, seen only in reflections. When she discovered about the car accident she was watching an opera, which is somewhat ironic given the story that proceeds to unfold is a tragedy not too far removed from the melodramatic art form.
There are several themes at play in this multilayered piece of cinema, as we see how one mother lost her son in a car accident, while the other is struggling to keep hers, as he wants nothing more to do with her. It shows how much people can take for granted, portraying the futility of this bitter family disagreement. Meanwhile, the dialogue is incredibly naturalistic, as the way our characters go off on tangents and discuss issues completely separate to the matter at hand is effective, making up a film that is conversation heavy. Made up mostly simply of mere discussions amongst characters – it’s essential that the screenplay is sharp and flows well, which it does.
Building towards a hugely intense and emotional final act, to enhance the realism of the piece, the camera is never still, always shaking and handheld, giving off a documentary feel. Child’s Pose is simply unforgettable cinema – complete with a breathtaking lead performance by Gheorghiu, playing a strong, female lead role in her 60s, something we simply don’t see enough of in Hollywood. That isn’t the only unique element to this film either, offering a different side to tragedy to what we so often see portrayed in cinema; poignantly and delicately presenting the detrimental effect such a tragic incident can have on both parties.