The Nun and the Detective
in 43rd Cairo International Film Festival
Bogdan George Apetri’s third feature-length film Miracle (Miracol, 2021) was one the most radical and abruptly twisted stories of the main competition of CIFF 43. Writer-director Apetri puts conventional, unnecessary piety, and naive, innocuous gullibility alongside each other, and lets the audience witness the disagreeable effect.
Based on the style, and way in which the story is portrayed, the film can be roughly divided into two parts. The first one introduces us to Cristina (Ioana Bugarin) who, clothed in an apostolik, leaves her convent on the sly and in tears. Another nun gives her a cellphone, anxiously giving instructions. Outside the convent fence a taxi waits for Cristina, ready to drive her directly to a nearby city hospital. The taxi driver is the brother of the nun who gave Cristina the cellphone and the only one who knows she is leaving. On the way to the hospital an esteemed doctor joins them and all three are goaded into a conversation about daily and eternal issues, plunging the audience into the local atmosphere. Cristina, replying to a question, says that she is going to the hospital because of her chronic headache; the doctor insists on getting her to his colleague. But when they arrive and the doctor introduces her to the neurologist, she leaves and walks into the Ob/Gyn department. The audience is not allowed to see what is going on and can only guess.
She has arranged to meet with the same taxi driver at the station so he’ll return her to the convent, but right after the appointment she looks for an available street taxi and takes one. Sitting next to the driver, the terse Cristina listens to friendly chat about retro music and his family. On the way to the hospital Cristina changed into casual clothes, so now she has to put on the apostolnik. Suspense grows when the camera follows Cristina into the trees at the edge of the woods, where the driver parks for her to change her clothes. The half-naked girl starts screaming, as the audience sees the driver following her through the trees.
The conventional Part Two of Miracle is shown from the perspective of the police officer Marius (Emanual Pârvu), or at least the spectator is seated right next to him, feeling his nervous tension and ostentatious equanimity. He visits Cristina’s convent, asks around about her leaving, and becomes suspicious of the nuns’ half-true answers while his religious colleague does a little shopping at the entrance. Marius is engulfed in the case, arguing and snapping at his lower-ranking colleague, as though Cristina’s accident is his fault. It looks like a confrontation between two generations, a range of approaches to lifestyle and worldview, not only professional ethics. Different people in this crime drama portray all the fundamental aspects of Romania—not as a country, but as a society full of fake conventions, like all the other regions with the scurf of socialism; a double-standard social “system” which usually hides its honest intentions and conceals it behind a pious mask.
Bogdan George Apetri shows us a double-faced society, rife with incompleteness, alluding to sanctimony within all the nuclear units of society. They can look like a perfect family, people listening to nostalgic music and being reasonably amiable, but imaginary impunity shows the flare of permissiveness. In all post-Soviet and socialistic countries we can be the passive witnesses of suppressed desires in order to satisfy unwritten rules and artificial standards. So all the well-done stories (especially ones made in unusual genres, such as the detective picture), more or less exploring that thin and fragile topic, are very pleasing to the eye.
Edited by Robert Horton
© FIPRESCI 2021