Directed by Calin Peter Netzer
Starring Luminita Gheorghiu, Bogdan Dumitrache
On a lonely stretch of highway near a rural Romanian town, a speeding driver hits and kills a young boy. With her son in danger of spending time in jail for manslaughter, Cornelia (Luminita Gheorghiu) uses every means at her disposal to save him. Her efforts expose not just a corrupt system, or a massive class divide, but also a poisonous relationship of a son being strangled by his mother’s love.
Romanian New Wave director Calin Peter Netzer won the coveted Golden Bear (best film award) at last year’s Berlin International Film Festival with this compelling family drama. Set against a background of corruption, power and privilege, Netzer brings us a character study of an overbearing mother willing to turn the world upside down to save her blood.
Providing the backbone to Child’s Pose is Luminita Gheorghiu’s riveting performance as Cornelia. She is manipulative, selfish, incapable of seeing anyone else’s point of view, formidable, and completely in love with her child. There is little doubt that Cornelia’s over-controlling ways have stunted Barbu by not allowing him room to grow. Yet Gheorghiu (The Death Of Mr Lazarescu) grants the character a degree of sympathy. In a role that could easily be played for melodrama, she is genuine and loving, despite the calculated nature of her actions. As she bustles into that poor rural police station bundled in furs, she is a mother bear protecting her cub. Her love is ferocious and her protection absolute.
By contrast Bogdan Dumitrache (The Death Of Mr Lazarescu) as the son Barbu is almost an enigma. At times melancholic, sometimes explosive, Barbu is a character best seen through the filter of others. From these snippets of information the audience can build a character that seems vastly different from the glowing terms that his mother often describes him in. He is also the victim here, the damage done to him is self evident as his debilitating fear of fatherhood becomes disturbingly apparent during a tale told by his girlfriend.
Netzer’s study moves beyond the issues of corruption and class that according to him are common in today’s Romanian society. Despite the blatant corruption, coercion, lies, evidence tampering, and bribery, that is all merely the vehicle to propel the plot forward. All to explore the Oedipal relationship central to this film. Instead it chillingly shows us individuals incapable of empathy, even over the death of a child, as they are so caught up in their own desires.
Driven by a strong and characterful central performance, this is a powerfully unsettling look into a family tainted by their own aspirations. This is not affluenza, rather the malady that sets in after.
Child’s Pose screens as part of the Lotterywest Festival Films season at UWA’s Somerville Auditorium from April 7-13. For more details, head here.