Child’s Pose – review

What is a definition of good Romanian cinema? Answer: Calin Peter Netzer’s Child’s Pose. Longer answer: the clinical anatomising of people, society and relationships; drama as docu-pathology. From 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days and The Death of Mr Lazarescu (co-scripted by this film’s co-writer Razvan Radulescu) to Child’s Pose is a short leap down the corridor of the cosmic counselling clinic.

Luminita Gheorghiu is the upper-middle-class 60-ish mother, features still clinging to a patrician beauty, eyes sadly sparkling like sleepless diamonds, who dotes on her grown-up, nest-fled son Barbu (Bogdan Dumitrache). When Barbu kills a child in a car accident, it’s open season again for Cornelia’s can-do motherhood. She will come to the rescue: try and stop her. She will help with money and advice, with besotted intervention . . . 

Mothers have loved their sons to destruction since Oedipus and Jocasta. Film-maker Netzer, though, arms his story with an ironic positivism: he gives Cornelia all the right moves. She interviews the driver of the colliding car (another collector’s cameo from Vlad Ivanov, the terrifying cold-fish abortionist of 4 Months); she offers hush money; she hires lawyers; she pushes Barbu towards the bereaved family to appease them with self-abasing apology.

It’s not the actions that Barbu resents. It’s the agenda. The many-armed mother moving monsterishly towards him once more. Wonderfully acted and lit like a daytime nightmare – high resolution with hallucinatory edges from Lazarescu cameraman Andrei Butica – the film moves to a powerful climax. A household mourning a death; two visitors, themselves flayed by suffering, seeking access points in the wounds and lesions of others’ grief. That the film won this year’s Berlin Golden Bear surprised none, except those who thought that Gloria might have shared the Best Film booty.

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