Spirit of Unfinishedness, Amorphous Spirit

in 50th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

by Srdjan Vucinic

In every shot there is an exciting, visually raw style in Box that suits the spirit of New Romanian Cinema, in terms of its sense of essential spontaneity, and the open and unpredictable nature of human life. With constantly shaking camera, often shooting protagonists from the back, this movie could produce a degree of the recipient’s anxiety and inhibition, but soon we realize that all these inhibitions perfectly express the soul of daily life, especially in Eastern European countries. In some way the author repeated the manner of his previous film If I Want to Whistle I Whistle, which was awarded with the Jury Grand Prize at Berlinale 2010, but applied with different content and type of drama.   

Serban’s movie reveals that the same sense of existence that Serbian major filmmaker and writer Zivojin Pavlovic (Živojin Pavlovic) used to attribute to amorphic civilizations of disorder, vibrant life, fate and circle principle – as opposed to the Western crystal civlizations of orders, forms, progress, human freedom, cleanlines and sterility. The unfinished nature of life could be properly featured only in some anarchic and open director’s manner and expression (or non-finito in terms and conditions of Michelangelo’s art). Our lives themselves are amorphic creations, uncompleteness is, not only in existential concepts of Heidegger or Sartre, but in Everyman’s experience an undeniable truth. That fact Serban senses brightly, like the other Romanian leading directors, Mungiu, Puiu, Jude etc.

Intentionally undeveloped plot and unfinished story, on the other hand, correspond to the director’s rough style and shooting strategy. The whole thing we could condense in just three everyday life pictures: of a young, talented boxer Raphael (19), his modest life with his father, living on the edge of poverty, and fighting in a corrupted arena of contemporary sport; of Cristina (30) an actress in a local theater, exhausted wife and mother; and of their relationship, some seeds of a love affair. In this context I need to mention significant leading roles of Claudia Ardelean and Orlando Chirvase whose convicing acting contributes to the overall atmosphere. In fact, the hint of a love affair is incorporated in the last scene and last shot of the film. This kind of torso, a drama in its embryo could be explained as some defect, some imperfection; or on the contrary, as a deliberately chosen narrative strategy. The second interpretation is closer and more interesting to me as an unexpected, suprising way of telling the story. That dramaturgy, interrupted and incomplete, precisely corresponding not only to the mental maps of the people in transitional societies, but to the state of mind of amorphic Eastern civilizations, where chaotic, disordered everyday life could be a source of outstanding artistic freshness and beauty. Return to rudimentary narrative forms and rough director’s aesthetics reveals the shortcuts to basic, forgotten truths as well as to the vital instincts of cinema.

Edited by Pamela Cohn