Are you familiar with Romanian New Wave cinema?
I am not, but happened to stumble upon this title via MUBI and decided to give it a try. Like overfilling your plate at a buffet line, Cristi Puiu’s three-hour “crime drama from a new perspective” can feel like a daunting task, but it taken slowly the reward, and excitement, pays off as one of the most riveting films of 2011.
Patience is required for anyone looking to explore Puiu’s AURORA as it involves a lingering camera, a painstakingly detailed lead, and a story that restrains itself from a reveal until the final, almost nonchalant finale. Yet I found myself captivated by every shot. Puiu, who plays double duty as both lead and director in part two of his projectioned Six Stories from the Outskirts of Bucharest, meticulously divides the line between violence and chaos via the heartbreak of a failed marriage. Yet, this small discovery, the spiral that typically is revealed early in most films, is left blank in Puiu’s AURORA. What that translates to is Viorel building towards emotional actions without audiences completely understanding his motives. Further meaning that Puiu must carry the weight of his actions as well as the strain of the collapsed emotional world around him while slowly bringing audiences into the realization of what his actions represent. Through his eyes we see the greys and dark hues of a metallic land with only a momentary lapse of nature during one of his ill-fated visits. Confusion may tug at your mind as you attempt to understand Viorel and his situation, but Puiu’s command of the camera keeps you glued to your chair emotionally challenging his every decision. Puiu’s visual approach to AURORA compliments the actions of Viorel as he weaves in and out of location after location, leaving an unsuspecting wake of emotion around him.
AURORA may be difficult to watch, but that is by design. Romanian New Wave is not easy to watch, but that may be by design as well. With titles within the movement like 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, and 2 DAYS to CHILD’S POSE, it isn’t for the weak of heart. To begin, it shows a minimalistic world. It shows an absurd world. It shows a voyeuristic world. Even the camera in AURORA seems to want to hide from all the action, lurking around every corner, never quite putting Puiu or his actions in full frame. This allows the random outbursts of violence to resonate louder. When Viorel erupts with anger, the camera focuses not on his face, but his back, containing the emotion while keeping the complexity of the character. The gunshot in the parking garage, the unsuspecting shot in the kitchen, the quiet walk into the police station, these will become bookmarks in AURORA’s story and moments that may pull you further down the Romanian New Wave rabbit hole.
I would suggest a screening of Puiu’s AURORA. It is not the film for everyone, and those unprepared may find the moments of wandering and confusion to detract or slow the pace of the film, but for me – this worked perfectly. I was captivated by Viorel’s story and struggle, continually double-guessing what may be his ultimate outcome.
It is a story of mystery and intrigue. It is a movie of heartbreak. It is a movie of design.