Family Conflicts in Cinema

in 27th Tromso International Film Festival

by Kristin Aalen

Conflicts between parents and children were a common theme in competing films at Tromsø international filmfestival. Those directors made the strongest impression who show us how the gears of history put pressure on individuals.

Graduation (Bacalaureat) is a family drama by the Romanian director Christian Mungiu. It tells the story of the surgeon Romeo Aldea who does not see any future for his daughter Eliza if she remains in Cluj, the second largest city of Romania. Despite the fall of communism in 1989 and a Romanian membership in the European Union since 2007 the prospects of living a good life in their home country is low.

Now the daughter has been offered a scholarship to the university of Cambridge in Great Britain on condition of having received excellent examination marks at the end of high school. This the girl could easily achieve where it not that she is almost raped the night before her first exam.

Mungiu twists a moral thumbscrew around father and daughter: What if influential people can be bribed to provide the best marks for Eliza?

How the father acts should not to be revealed, neither the consequences. But Mungiu highlights in an excellent way a discussion about values in Romanian society. Aldea and his wife Magda, both with a Christian background, have raised their child to become an honorable person. But when conditions in society are getting worse the father is tempted to break with his ideals.

Despite the severe crisis in the Aldea family, Graduation nevertheless ends on a tone of hope.

Hope is not the conclusion in Christine by the American director Antonio Campos. Changing conditions in media put pressure on the television reporter Christine Chubbuck in his drama built on a true story from USA in the 1970-ies.

Chubbuck, excellently portrayed by Rebecca Hall, is a 30-year old woman who fights against depression, loneliness and her journalistic ambitions. Her problems are growing when her boss demands more popular reportages to increase the channels´ viewing figures.

The pressure does not lessen by the fact that Christine´s divorced mother moves into her flat with a new boyfriend. The daughter quarrels constantly with her mother, a self-centered woman who lacks the ability to comfort Christine properly.

The story has a tragic outcome, showing Christine churned to death by the gears of society.

A woeful conclusion is also the case in The last family (Ostatnia Rodzina) by the Polish director Jan P. Matuszynski. His debut feature is built on true events, giving life to the family Beksinski who lived in Warsaw from the late 1970´s up to 2005.

The father, Zdzislaw, is an artist living with his wife Zofia and their son Tomasz. The film depicts how the son is a neurotic character on the verge of suicide. His parents, especially the pious and self-sacrificing mother, work hard to save him from a final downfall.

Matuszynski only indirectly gives us an idea of how the changing Polish society – before and after the fall of communism in 1989 – inflicts on the individuals. The surroundings of the sordid high-rise buildings where the Beksinskis live their isolated lives are depressing, harshly underlined by how death hits one after the other in tragic ways.

(Caption Graduation) A moral conflict between father (Adrian Titieni) and daughter (Maria-Victoria Dragus) is portrayed in Graduation.

(Caption Christine) TV reporter Christine Chubbuck (Rebecca Hall) is forced by her boss (Tracy Letts) to make more popular reportages.

(Caption The Last Family) The family Beksinski: Father (Andrzej Seweryn) and mother (Aleksandra Konieczna) with their neurotic son Tomasz (Dawid Ogrodnik).

Edited by Martin Botha