Police, Adjective (Corneliu Porumboiu, 2009): Romania

Reviewed by Candice Field. Viewed at the AFI Film Festival 2009.

Writer/director Corneliu Porumboi never ceases to amaze the audience with his ability to test the normal conventions of film making. Police Adjective follows Cristi, a fairly young policeman, assigned to tail a student, and stake out his house, in hopes of determining the source of the young man’s hashish. Before long, it becomes clear that Cristi is convinced that the law, like in other European countries is sure to change. However, his uptight police chief is far from a revolutionary thinker. In fact one of the most memorable and climatic scenes in the film comes in the form of an extended lecture Cristi is forced to endure from his boss. At which point Cristi is actually forced to look up a string of words in webster’s dictionary. If your looking for the typical kind of action filled, gritty police drama, “Police Adjective” is sure to disappoint. However, if you’re the kind that enjoys a highly mental, thought provoking film that questions certain elements of the law/society look no further. It is important to note that while “Police Adjective” may be a film about a young police officer carrying out his duties on the surface, in reality, it is a film about language. Corneliu Porumboi is clearly a perfectionist and every second of the film appears to be completely planned (don’t expect to see his actors improvising).

The film is shot in an almost documentary like style. Cinematographer Marius Panduru uses the camera as a surveillance tool. That said, the camera is almost like an observer. It is safe to say that the film actually bends the genre’s conventions as much as it follows them. However, there is no way of getting around the fact that “Police Adjective” truly operates outside what we consider to be reasonable conventions of time. In a sense, it seems like Porumboi is testing the patience of the audience along with the time limits associated with conventional film making. Most notably of which through a seemingly never ending continuos shot of a secretary typing away at her keyboard. Apart from the occasional flashy car appearing briefly in the background, everything in the film appears to be at least ten years too old (or in desperate need of an update). The setting is composed primarily of a world in which gray police offices, rainy streets, and fluorescent lighting rein supreme. The director certainly takes advantage of long takes, the film is edited in a very particular and concise manner. Porumboi sticks to the fundamentals of film making and makes use of the most basic of shots; don’t expect to see any jump-cuts, or overwhelmingly fast pace scenes. Overall, Corneliu Porumboi succeeds in creating a thought provoking film about language.

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