A Cannes Film Festival official selection – In Competiton – Sieranevada is Romania’s Oscar submission to the Academy for the Best Foreign Language Film category, but it was not retained within the Academy’s shortlist. It is the latest film by Cristi Puiu, Cannes’ Un Certain Regard top prize winner in 2005 for The Death of Mr Lazarescu.
A film for critics and hardcore film buffs, Sieranevada consists of a gathering, to salute a family’s deceased patriarch, where nothing seems to go the right way.
It starts on the street, with a long take, leading to one of these (by today’s standards) highly common scenes inside a car where we watch people from the back. From extended minutes of conversations, with numerous jump-cuts, we are finally introduced into the main stage, the apartment. Then the main course takes place for nearly three hours.
While the struggling camera operator seems to have a hard time to try and find a focal point, the dialogue-driven drama, almost exclusively confined into this apartment, rely mostly on generational differences. You get your young adept of conspiracy theory (the story takes place a few days after the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack). It initiates endless would-be-clever discussions that would sound right if written by the Coen Brothers or Jacques Prévert. In this case, it is mostly misleading even when the purpose is obviously to introduce the psychology of the characters .
The most consequential scenes in Sireanevada involve the elders. Veteran actors Tatiana Iekel, as Evelina the old communist, or the delirious cheating uncle, played by Sorin Medelini, are as convincing as they are engaging. The whole cast delivers fine performances but the endless rumble never fulfills any of its promises with significance in dealing with its numerous themes and ideas.