● Morometes 2 (Romania, 2018), by Stere Gulea.
Most arts have shown that the mere fact of advancing does not automatically guarantee that you will be getting better, and even by judging empirically, I would say that on the contrary. Cinema, with its preference for immediate reality, is the most sensitive when it comes to "project frightening." This was the main reason why I was skeptical about the project Morometes 2; especially the 30-year interval separating him from the first film was enough to evoke a series of recent exaggerations and cracks of good artisans under Communist censorship but, once they have given the taste of freedom, they have gone astray.
It is, however, that Stere Gulea's new film is honored by its task, which is not the simplest: the second volume of Moromeţii Marin Preda is not only a crunch of the life of the family of Ilie Moromete, conceived in close relationship with the relatively sealing world of the village – as he did the first. Scopeof the second part is much more extensive, and it takes into account the mapping of a territory (both spatially and temporally) in full metamorphosis, where the reality is slippery and it becomes impossible to cut between one and the other. There are psychologically powerful moments marked by the fearful confidence of the people in a predictable future, but also by the uncertainty caused by the fresh memory of the war.
I think there is one of the minuscules of the film, for Gulea's ambition is to attack the social-political transformations in the dawn of the communist regime, but also the souls crossed by Elijah and the late Niculae. At one hour and 50 minutes, as long as the movie's running time, the fact that the scenario oscillates between the changed face of the village and the city that fascinates more and more between conservatives and progressists of the "new world," and among many characters is not an asset – the novel has space to unfold, but the film can only touch these themes (family, society, time), giving a pretty sharpened view of things already known. That said, there is also bad news for high school students hoping to replace the novel's reading with Gulea's film because the latter also includes passages from Life as a prey: Niculae has not only the ambitions of reforming society, but also of individual creation, so that it immerses itself in the suffocating environment of the newspaper.
Second is Josh Pasina's play as young Niculae. It is true that the boy is taking the step of integrating into the new world with readings from Lenin and trying to evade the primitive world of the Romanian village – but Pashtina seems, anyway, from another film, foreign to the physical work of the earth, as well as the intellectual vow invested at that moment of crossroads. On the other hand, Horatiu Mălăele's Ilie is from there: a resigning character, who slips from the tongue and the hedonistic-introspective character of the first film towards a nihilist mummy that is hard to penetrate. The males make Elijah a character who does not keep up with his time but deepens deep into the new reality. The decline of the man is irremediable: the older sons, who have long displayed "separatist" tendencies, stayed in Bucharest, Nile fell on the front, the significance of Niculae's spiritual needs (eternal "what do you need to read?") – and the situation with wife Catrina (Dana Dogaru in a short and caustic role) has degenerated because of her family vacations to other women in the village.
The film may not approach in depth any threads open to change of regime – but it does not even fall into anticommunist schematism. After all, I think the suspension for over 30 years has been beneficial because it has allowed a balanced look at the content: the structure of the film is as classical as possible, perhaps slightly anachronistic, but the moderation – or equidistance – of the scenario of ideologies the opposite (and coexisting) of the times that they detail detach themselves without doubt in the Romanian contemporary, and not in the mightily unsettling of the 1990s.
Into the Morometes 1, Niculae's then-child character was essential in a different way than the thematic catalyst here: his role was to reflect events as seen through his eyes. Gulea has repeatedly interwoven with a child-assisting adult, precisely to point out his lost innocence slowly. It's a maneuver that reminds of Ivan's childhood of Tarkovsky, which inspired the film a poetic vision, almost inertial. The roots of such idyllism also appear in the new film, through Vivi Dragan Vasile's very carefully polished image, which makes the village a quiet shelter and a topos forfotitor from the city. But Gulea is now closer to the realm of reality, integrating as much as the New Wave lesson with longer frames. The result is a carefully polished film, perhaps too preoccupied with the technical means – the last frame captures the peasant house from a rallying droning – but it proves to be agreeable. Movies (too) long-awaited should be taken in general how grano salis; Morometes 2 may be the exception proving the rule.
Morometes 2 will run in cinemas starting November 16th.
Photo by Stere Gulea