Sieranevada is an honest ensemble portrait of a family reunion where prejudices and back-slapping emerge during extended conversations.

A neurosurgeon, Lary (Mimu Branescu), hands over the shopping bag to his wife Laura (Catalina Moga) on the crowded street, one lane dug for repair. Lary starts the engine and traverses the circumference of the entire sector to pick up Laura, as he can’t reverse his car in traffic. All this happens in real-time for more than a minute while the camera still focuses on the crowded market and holed lane, and Laura is out of focus the entire time, eventually making her part of the crowd. If you have run out of your patience, please do yourself a favor and do not continue watching this piece of cinema.

Crammed into the cluster of closely knit, cantankerous relatives in a flat during the funeral services of late Emile for nearly three hours, where mostly nothing happens in the term of plot development, won’t be an ideal watch to get entertained. Cristi Puiu, in his painstakingly detailed realism, shows how involvement with relatives beyond a certain point can inseminate contempt.

 On the top of it, Puiu places the camera in a hallway surrounded by constant cluttering of glassware in the kitchen, two bathrooms, two rooms out of which one is occupied by Gabi’s (Rolando Matsangos) baby – Gabi happens to be Lary’s brother in law and one tiny study room. The Camera keeps on rotating in each direction, like eavesdropping to unearth some secret fueling the excitement. And whenever the crowd flocks into the dining room or kitchen, the camera pushes the crowd away on his way to find a place to have a better view of the ongoing maddening.

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Inexplicably titled ‘Sieranevada’ – which, according to Director Cristi Puiu, is arbitrary nonsense – is a profound, obscuring realistic film that has a mordant sense of humor and deadpan dialogues. The film only asks for patience while it builds slowly, I mean way too slow that it can make even an ardent cinephile yawn, to reward you with one of the most compelling family dramas that give insight into the perspective of Romanian family towards the ongoing socio-political damage. And it works like a catalog of human behavior when pushed to edge over the resurfacing little secrets and gossip.

One way of looking at the film is how the funeral feast gets postponed thrice for people who are hungry as a pig. Strangely, every time they decide to stuff the food down their throat, someone in the family behaves nastily, and some shocking revelations are made, all this done in a convincing & organic manner.

Sieranevada is amusing and absurdly hilarious at times, while sometimes the drama unfolds so mysteriously that you want a second to catch your breath. Sieranevada is an honest ensemble portrait of a family reunion where prejudices and back-slapping emerge during extended conversations about the Charlie Hebdo murders; Communism; 9/11 conspiracies; and personal remarks that bring out the ugly side of relationships. The film is a bit of a slog, it checks your patience at times, but ultimately, if you submit yourself to this film, you will gather many tiny incidents that might have happened in your own family gathering and probably laugh about it.


Sieranevada Rating: ★★★

Sieranevada Cast: Mimi  Branescu, Dana Dogaru, Judith State, Bogdan Dumitrache, Sorin Medeleni, Rolando Matsangos, Marin Grigore, Catalina Moga, Tatiana Iekel, Marian Ralea, Ioana Craciunescu, Ilona Brezoianu, Simona Ghita, Valer Dellakeza
Streaming On: MUBI
Links: IMDb

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