Police, Adjective (Corneliu Porumboiu, 2009): Romania

Reviewed by Lava Farmer. Viewed at Mann’s Chinese theater as part of 2009 AFI Film Festival.

Police, Adjective takes us on a psychological journey that asks where to draw the line between morality and the law.  Christi (Dragos Bucur) is a cop given the task of tailing three teenagers who occasionally smoke hashish.  His boss commands him to stage a sting operation to catch the kid that’s supplying and lock him up.  However, Christi seems to be hesitant about the ordeal.  He feels that the law is far too harsh and that be changed soon because of all the other European countries that allow the use of hash.  He thinks that he would deeply regret arresting and ruining a kid’s life all for just for smoking some weed.

The film is shot in very real time.  Lots of long takes and point of view shots help us really get inside Christi’s head.  The boredom of his life helps us feel what he is feeling.  A couple times we watch him eat an entire meal with no cuts, just one continual take.  These long and monotonous takes may seem boring or make the audience feel uncomfortable, however, they get us thinking.  We start to wondering what Christi is thinking about, weather he is right, or what our own morals are.

Although Romania may seem like somewhat of a dreary setting, the cinematography displayed is amazing.  Point of view shots of Christi watching the teenagers through fences symbolize future imprisonment.  As Christi tails the children, we see numerous shots of one person exiting the screen then Christi entering in behind soon there after.  Often the framing of a shot seems odd because a character is out of frame yet still heard and understood to be there.  This is because each shot is uniquely aimed at Christi to bring you that much closer to understanding his mentality.

Overall it is obvious why this film won awards at Cannes and the Transylvania International Film Festival.  It is a well-crafted satire that asks us, “Is the law really moral?”

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