Directed by: Calin Peter Netzer.
Written by: Razvan Radulescu and Calin Peter Netzer.
Starring: Luminita Gheorghiu (Cornelia Keneres), Bogdan Dumitrache (Barbu), Natasa Raab (Olga Cerchez), Ilinca Goia (Carmen), Florin Zamfirescu (Domnul Fagarasanu), Vlad Ivanov (Dinu Laurentiu), Adrian Titieni (Child's father).
Romania is producing some of the most interesting films in the world right now. This so-called New Wave has produced films as varied as 12:08 East of Bucharest, 4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Aurora, Police Adjective, Beyond the Hills and Tuesday After Christmas. The stories are varied, but all of them look at a country still struggling with the fall of Communism 25 years later, and searching for its identity. Child’s Pose is another of the great films to add to that list. On its surface, it is about a mother who is overprotective of her adult son, who has started to resent her for it, and trying to cut her out of his life. But when he`s involved in a car accident, she seizes on the opportunity to try and regain some of the control she has lost. I have heard some people call her a monstrous mother – and while there is a part of that in her, and it’s impossible not to hate what she does in the movie, it’s slightly more complicated than that. She is, in some ways, a monster – but a very human one.
The film is basically about class. Liminita Gheoghiu plays Corneila Keneres is one of the year`s great performances – an affluent architect, married to a successful man, who hates the fact that her `boy` Barbu (Bogdan Dumitrache) married Carmen (Ilinca Goia) – who already has a child, but has yet to `give` him one. She pumps her maid –who she also pays to clean his sons house – for information, because he`ll barely talk to her anymore. She pays lip service in being nice to the maid – who sees right through her, but is powerless to say anything. When Barbu hits and kills a young boy with his car – a young boy, who not coincidentally comes from a poor family (described as simple folk by the police) – she swoops in and tries to take over. He gets Barbu to change his statement – so that he wasn’t speeding – and bullies her way into the investigation and Barbu`s life again. She`ll try to get others to change their statements – most notably Dinu Laurentiu (Vlad Ivanov, adding another amoral pyscho to his resume) – the driver Barbu was overtaking at the time of the accident. But basically, what she really wants is to control Barbu.
For his part, Barbu seems like an immature asshole – but at least he seems to realize the poisonous effect his mother has had on his life, and wants to change. She doesn’t see anything wrong with protecting her boy as she constantly refers to him, even though he`s well into his 30s. There are three absolutely stunning scenes in the movie – the first when Corneila confronts Ivanov`s Dinu, where she meets someone even more amoral than she is. The second is a chilling scene between Cornelia and Carmen, where Carmen tells her all about Barbu`s sex life, and Cornelia hangs on every word. And the final scene in the movie, where Cornelia goes to see the family of the boy Barbu killed, and may, in fact, finally see them as people – even if they’re still not as important as her or Barbu.
The performance by Gheorghiu is stunning – it will put most of the Oscar nominees this year to shame, even as it has no chance of being nominated itself. It would have been easy to play Cornelia as a monster, but she doesn’t really do that. She is a mother trying to protect her son – which is understandable – and even if she uses her money and influence to do so, that is also understandable. What is creepy is how much control she wants over Barbu – and how she sees that as normal. It is a more nuanced performance than it seems at first. She is matched at various scenes by Ivanov and Goia – but she basically plays she is the centre of every scene – and she’s brilliant.
The film works even if you don’t see it as a commentary on the current state of Romania as a country – which I think it is – it works as a character study. Directed by Calin Peter Netzer who co-wrote the movie with Razvan Radulescu, the one problem I have with the movie is that he insists on shooting most of the movie with handheld cameras, which can be distracting at times. For the most part though, he lets the actors and the writing take center stage – both of which are brilliant. Child’s Pose is a movie that snuck up on me a little – one that gradually drew me in, and then shocked me as it went along. The more I think it, the deeper and better it becomes.