Philosophers throughout history have wrestled with the question of ends and means, right and wrong, and good or bad. Socrates said, "It is never right to do wrong." Others maintain that it is right to act in such a way that it produces the most desirable consequences whether or not it follows society's rules. For Dr. Romeo Aldea (Adrian Titieni), a well-respected doctor in Romanian director Cristian Mungiu's ("Beyond the Hills") latest film, Graduation (Bacalaureat), his goal is to do whatever it takes to secure a better future for his daughter, Eliza (Maria-Victoria Dragus), who has been conditionally accepted for a scholarship to Cambridge University in England depending on the grades in her final exams.As a result, his personal integrity is tested in an environment where greed, corruption, and opportunism are the norm. Romeo and his wife Magda (Lia Bugnar) live in a small apartment in Cluj, a Transylvanian city, together with Romeo's mother (Alexandra Davidescu) whose health is rapidly declining. Aware that he is having an affair with Sandra (Malina Manovici), a teacher at Eliza's school who has a young boy, Matei (David Hodorog), of her own, Magda seems to be in a state of constant depression. According to Mungiu, her depression reflects the state of the country itself where people are living in a state of paranoia, dramatized as the film begins with a rock crashing through the window of Romeo's house.The mystery of the perpetrator's identity soon gives way to another. Before the final exam that will determine whether or not Eliza receives a scholarship, she is assaulted and nearly raped on her way to school by an unknown assailant. Defending herself, she breaks her wrist and is forced to wear a cast on her right arm. Fearing she will be unable to properly write her exams, Romeo follows the advice of Ivanov (Vlad Ivanov), a friend in the police department, and pulls some strings with the school administrator and the town's Vice Mayor Bulai (Petre Ciubotaru) to ensure that she receives a qualifying grade, but every compromising decision leads to another until even the tangled web he weaves even threatens the good will of his daughter.Attempting to solve the two mysteries of who threw the rock and who assaulted Eliza, Romeo suggests to Eliza's biker boyfriend, Marius (Rares Andrici) that he is hiding the truth about her assault but their confrontation turns physical and only serves to escalate the problem with his daughter. Romeo clings to the idea that he is a decent person who is only trying to create a better life for someone he loves but it is clear that he has become part of the system he detests. Co-produced by the Dardenne Brothers, Graduation has the Dardennes' naturalistic look and its gritty realism but Mungiu's effortless subtlety and the power of his moral compass is his own.Mungiu says that "If you tolerate your own compromise you will tolerate the compromise around you. You will lose the moral power to speak out, because deep inside you know you have done something that is not so moral. We all complain in Romania about the level of corruption without understanding that we are responsible for it." Though there are no consequences apparent for any of the wrongdoers, many unanswered questions are simply left hanging, and the film's abrupt ending is less than satisfying, Mungiu succeeds in exposing the favoritism, influence trading, and codes of silence that permeate Romanian society, an exposé that may just b
When a man's daughter is assaulted the night before her final exams, her future, which he has set up so well, is thrown into question. Graduation is all about the lengths a father is willing to go for his children. Whether motivated by selfish reasons or genuine desire, the father wants nothing more than to get his daughter out of the morally corrupt environment that permeates their town. To accomplish his plans however, he starts to cross lines and partake in the system he openly reproaches. Christian Mungiu tackles these sensitive topics with care and compassion. Using long takes and unobtrusive camera work, Mungiu emphasizes character above all else. Every character is redeemable in some manner, but no one is innocent. Though the ending brings in an unnecessary police investigation that seems to beat the point home, it is redeemed by the haunting final image that gives a lot of disastrous implications about generational connections. As favors and obligations start to stack up, the father becomes entangled in a web of questionable decisions. The question ultimately becomes, "do good reasons make up for bad decisions?" Graduation (2016) Directed by: Cristian Mungiu Screenplay by: Cristian Mungiu Producers: Cristian Mungiu Starring: Rares Andrici, Valeriu Andriuta, and Eniko Benczo Run Time: 2 hours 36 minutes
In order to let his daughter escape a corrupt country, the lead character in 'Bacalaureat' has to immerse himself in the corrupt system he despises. That's the central paradox and the moral dilemma in this film. Doctor Aldea, a surgeon in a small town in Romania, has one goal in his life: to let his daughter escape to 'civilisation'. This goal has come within reach when she is selected for a scholarship in Britain, provided she passes the exams with excellent results. When she is violently attacked a few days before the exams, there is a serious risk she won't pass the test. So the doctor decides to pull some strings.But he has to cope with the moral consequences afterwards. Is the father still able to look his daughter in the eye, after having told her all her life that corruption is wrong? And what about his wife, who has made a point of never lowering her standards of integrity, and has paid for her righteousness with a low-paid and uninteresting job? Besides, how can he defend high moral standards when he is conducting an affair with a much younger woman? The doctor defends his moral integrity: the attack is an unforeseen emergency, and so exceptions to the rule are permitted. But does he believe so himself? Things are made more complicated because of his daughter's boyfriend, and her own doubts about the need to go to Britain.The film looks at all sides of moral integrity, and doesn't offer straightforward solutions. In fact, a lot is left unanswered, as if the director wants to say that things are never very clear, and there is always room for doubt.Apart from posing moral questions, the film also offers a fine view into modern Romanian society. 'You'll scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours' seems to be the national motto. The film offers little hope of improvement: the only character opposing this system is the doctor's wife. But she looks utterly depressed and, as the doctor points out, has only been able to keep her high moral standards because she could rely on his position.Director Cristian Mungiu is able to weave the many different story lines nicely together, although some scenes don't seem to be related to the rest of the story. Probably he intentionally doesn't want to spell everything out. Life itself is sometimes ambiguous, so why shouldn't a movie be?
Romeo is a middle aged doctor in the rural mountains of Transylvania, he and his wife have long since exhausted the passion of their union and he seeks such comforts elsewhere. Meanwhile he and his wife live to see their daughter graduate and move to England to study psychology at university. All she has to do is finish school.Then on the day before her final exams start she get assaulted outside the school. She is now an emotional wreck and all the careful plans laid over the last eighteen years are in tatters. However, Romania is the sort of place where if you have the right connections you can make things happen and so after a lifetime of doing the right thing Romeo finds temptation knocking on his door, that is to do the wrong thing but, in his heart, it is for the right reasons.This is a very European film in that it often leaves things hanging – like life it is not all packaged for easy consumption. There is no musical score which adds to the mundanity of what is supposed to be ordinary in anyone's life. The societal issues are all dealt with in a way that makes them more or less matter of fact whilst not detracting from the base wrong doings that seem to be rampant. This is a film that uses a simple story to discuss complex issues that go into the very depths of belief and values and as such is one that is easy to recommend to all fans of thoughtful European cinema.
A realistic Romanian drama about the struggles, compromises and implications of the parent's role in a family. This is a really intelligent, well made film that gives a bleak representation of contemporary life in Romania, particularly the youth who are told by their previous generation that they must hope and start fresh in a depressing state, though they are searching for their identities themselves. I liked that the film didn't stretch the emotional depth to a point that it seemed too unlikely or cliché but rather describe an honest family situation. It did in places fall flat but it's ambiguous ending alludes to the mysteries and uncertainty of life which serves the premise of the film nicely.
Fist of all, Romanian movies are the most unique movies I've ever seen, so they deserve to be watched and talked about among those who watch. Bacalaureat (Graduation) is an example how you can make a masterpiece without extraordinary script, how you can see the very best of acting without some special dialogues, effects, etc. For those who are admirers of Hollywood this is not a perfect thing to watch. There is nothing special in this movie, nothing extraordinary, uncommon... However Bacalaureat is one of the most beautiful thing I've seen during the last few years. Romanians should be teachers to the other directors. I'm not sure if Romanians should say "thanks" to communism and isolation during the last century, I am not sure whether this is their way to express the feelings that they've had in the past. I am sure that this movie is a diamond among overambitious titles.
The Romanian 'New Wave' is not that new any longer. For the last decade Romanian directors succeeded to surprise viewers and juries with their films dealing with hardships of life under the Communist dictatorship, and about the period that followed immediately, a time that carried the sequels of the dictatorship in the difficult transition that the country has undergone. It's kind of a revenge and recovery both from an artistic but also an attitude point of view, because Romanian cinema was deeply affected by censorship, and the directors of the previous generations enjoyed less freedom than their colleagues in other former Communist countries, having to either compromise, or had their movies severely chopped of, if not simply interdicted. The result was that with very few exceptions both the value and the message of the Romanian films before 1989 was null. More than a decade had to pass, and a new generation of film makers to appear in order to fix and start the recovery process. Results are however brilliant. Cristian Mungiu is one of the best representatives of the new school of directors, maybe the best. All his projects are followed with interest, and they do not disappoint, including 'Bacalaureat' (Graduation).Interestingly enough, the films are differently perceived by the Romanian and foreign audiences, and this was clear in the reception and commentaries at the Haifa International Film Festival where I saw the film, as well as in the questions that lead role actor Adrian Titieni was asked from the audience after the screening. He was quite careful in pointing that the film should be taken as what it is, meaning one film representing maybe one facet of the Romanian reality, but not all of it.There are two main themes in the film: First it's about the generation gap, about parents sacrificing everything for what they perceive as best for their kids - but is this 'everything' the best or even good? Same as in 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, the film that brought him the Palme d'Or, the hero of Mungiu's latest film crosses the borders of law and buries his own moral rules in order to help. It's just that here it's not about helping the best friend, but his own kid (same them as in another Romanian production that I liked - Child's Pose) but by doing this he becomes the master of her destiny - is this really for her good? His goal is to save her from the generalized atmosphere of corruption, from the endless chain of relations the Romanian society and life seem to be built upon, but in order to save her from the system he needs to become part of it. This is the second important theme. The Romanian director seems seems to look around in anger, at his own broken dreams, at the lost opportunities of his generation who could have made a difference but did not have the courage to do it, ending in compromise.The role of Adrian Titieni is very similar with the one in Illegitimate which I had seen in the previous evening at the festival, but more complex, and the direction style is very different. Mungiu seems to control very tight his actors and makes sure that all intended nuances are there, while Adrian Sitaru, the director of Illegitimate gave much more freedom to the actors, who could improvise and build their own version of the characters. The result is impressing in both movies, confirming Titieni as one of the best film actors of his generation.Interestingly enough, the two movies end both in similar manners, with a still snapshot photo - in
Graduation, by Cristian Mungiu reviewed by NC WeilThis 2016 Romanian film by the director of 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, spans the time between a young woman's high school final exams and her graduation. Her father, a doctor, and mother, a librarian, though estranged (he sleeps on the couch and has a lover), both dote on their daughter, and their highest concern is her well-being. The girl is an excellent student, but the day before her exams she is attacked by a would-be rapist - in the scuffle her wrist is broken, but her violation goes far deeper than bones in a cast. Her father, a precise, methodical, and - yes - kind man, is determined to see her go to university in the UK where she has been offered a scholarship (contingent on high exam scores). He will do anything to make that plan happen. The assault is one more reason - Romania, for him, is a dead end. He and his wife are stuck there, but for their daughter, it is not too late. She must leave.The film opens with a rock shattering a window of their ground-floor apartment - the doctor certainly has a point about the benefits of living elsewhere - and he has labored to give her the chance to escape. But after the assault she gets cold feet.Strip away the differences between Romania's culture and our own, and the film boils down to a father wanting what he is convinced is best for his near-adult daughter, with his intentions overriding her own desires and distractions. Graduation is about leaving one phase of life to move into the next. The impossibility of planting your own experience directly into the heart and mind of a grown child is on painful display here - you have learned the hard way what you should have done, but she, rationally or not, has to make her own choices.For a parent, relinquishing control can mean one's life has truly been wasted - you didn't save yourself, and you can't save her either. But she's no longer yours to control - to insist on obedience is to keep her dependent, unable to be any kind of adult. In the end, that stunting is probably a worse trap than whatever limits her bad decisions impose. Mungiu's sympathy for all his characters forces us to recognize that everyone, no matter how corrupt or self-serving, is just trying to make the best of the life they're stuck in. Futility outranks evil in his compromised worldview.
Seen at the Film Fest Ghent 2016 (website: filmfestival.be/en). In the last four years, I've seen several depressing movies about corruption in former Communist countries. It seems a popular topic in the area, as can be readily derived from noteworthy examples like Durak/The Fool (Bykov 2014), Dolgaya Schastlivaya Zhizn/A Long And Happy Life (Khlebnikov 2013), and Leviathan (Zvyagintsev 2014). Even though the movie at hand follows suit on the same path, it however winds up being not that depressing as the others. Especially the final scenes brought some silver lining for the country's future, albeit that I'm not so sure it is the actual message that the film makers try to drive home.Anyway, the running time is more than 2 hours, but I could not spot any boring or redundant scene. Everything included in the script was necessary and useful, emphasizing how convoluted the tangled web became as woven by the various protagonists. It made abundantly clear that one step causes the next step, and so on and so on, until the point that no backpedaling is possible anymore. In other words, the original policy of our lead character Romeo may not have brought him wealth or influence in the past, yet his route was straightforward and devoid of complex deals deserving counter deals to make the circle round.The threesome family seemed a happy family from the outset, which proved gradually untrue in small steps. The case was not that their problems were unnatural or far-fetched, therefore it took its time for the cracks to become visible. Progress developed slowly but steadily. It was a surprise, for me that is, that there was some sort of resolution in the end. It countered the assumed morale of this movie (my assumption), that there is no middle road in corruption: either one steers clear of it, or one gets involved in complex arrangements from which one cannot get loose once started.All in all, two hours well spent while watching my favorite theme develop on screen, at the same time asking myself what I should have done in similar circumstances. Such thought provoking plots are very welcome, mostly also carrying an existential takeaway message hidden under an exercise for the viewer. We were taught that Honesty Is The Best Policy, but the plot of this movie lets you get doubts underway.
I have seen "graduation" at Filmekimi film festival in Istanbul today. Apart from the plot and impressive acting, I would like to point out a compelling detail about the movie: More than many times we watch the Romeo peeling and slicing several fruits such as apple, lemon and orange very skilfully, implying the analogy between this diligent action and his career as an experienced surgeon. There were also some hints in the movie resembling somewhat Nuri Bilge Ceylan's films. (Breaking of window glass in very first scene, suspicious interventions of the private life, etc). Nevertheless, Bacalaureat is a good sample of cinema which maintains the tension and asks unanswered questions throughout.
A small Romanian film has universal implications: How do good people get drawn into corruption even if the ramifications are hardly worth the danger? Graduation tells of a decent doctor's (Romeo, Adrian Titeni) attempt to game the testing system so his daughter, Eliza (Maria Dragus) can go to the UK to study.However, beyond this infraction lie other small corruptions that characterize a middle class in decline.Romeo has a mistress at his daughter's school. Because his wife is emotionally needy, his daughter sees her father's extramarital connection in need of addressing and expunging.Although European mores are more accepting of these transgressions, the film implies that they nevertheless corrode everywhere. The film's pace is almost serene in the face of implications from an investigation into the cheating and the questionable actions of her boyfriend surrounding her assault. It seems no facet of the doctor's life is free from the ramifications of his peccadilloes.The dialogue is spare but poignant--each character expresses feelings true to his or her development. The system is rife with corruption--no news to those who know Romania over the years. Yet built in is a subtle Nemesis waiting to pounce. While no single action of the doctor is earth moving, Romeo suffers the scorn of his wife and daughter, and he is slowly losing his mistress as she awakens to the needs of her future.If you like character-driven drama with a modest dose of sermonizing but pleasant verbal dexterity throughout, then see Graduation. Everyone gets a diploma in life navigation: "Eliza, you have to do your best. It'd be a pity to miss this chance. Some important steps in life depend on small things. And some chances shouldn't be wasted. You know, in '91, your Mum and I decided to move back. It was a bad decision." Romeo