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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 11 March 2018
Voichita is about 25 years old. She’s a shy, modest woman with a pixie voice that’s barely audible most of the time. She’s dutiful and obedient, happiest when told what to do in the remote monastery where she resides. Everyone here wears black — Father Superior and all the nuns (perhaps a dozen of them, including Mother Superior, the eldest woman in the group). Voichita addresses these ‘superior’ people as Papa and Mama. She grew up in an orphanage, not knowing her parents, so here in the monastery Papa and Mama are her parents by proxy. She seems content with her life of simple routine: sweeping up, chopping wood, gathering eggs, fetching water from the well, praying, reciting psalms, singing hymns. There’s security in routine, a sense of order and calm. Calamity occurs elsewhere, in the chaotic world beyond. There God has been forsaken for the pleasures of hedonism and momentary fulfilment.

Voichita left that world behind when she entered the monastery and took her vows. She found God. Where was He? In her all the time, it seems. She was distracted by the world, interrupted. She hadn’t learned how to look to truly perceive. But when she understood the truth about herself and the world she decided to devote her life to the source of that truth. Father Superior, her Papa, must have seen the depth of her sincerity, the purity of her devotion and commitment. He looks content with her and all the other sisters.

If he was a different sort of man (and the women were too) he could have a harem. As it is, he has a kind of spiritual collection of women. He is God’s vessel. It’s he, the only male, thus the alpha male, who enacts the rituals from the Holy Book. He speaks and the women listen. More than this, they obey, his word sacrosanct, unchallenged as commanded.

Harmony reigns, dissent unknown. A sort of rigid, austere peace animates the place. A peace of goodwill but one lacking in fun, laughter, spontaneity, humour. God’s business is serious, as it must be in this world of toil, suffering, sin and temptation. If demons and the Devil were not part of God’s design, they wouldn’t exist. They’re as real as the risen Christ and his angels, and as such are here to test us. At least that’s the best available theory. So we must be steadfast in our faith.

Voichita is. She wasn’t always devout. But she is now, having found her way here by God’s grace.

Jane Eyre had Helen Burns at Lowood School. Jane, too, was an orphan. Helen was her first real friend, her first true love. How would Jane have lived beyond Lowood if Helen had lived? Of course we’ll never know. Jane had to live with the grief and memory of that love. Helen died confident she would be in Heaven with Jesus and all the angels, but Jane was not so sure. She knew too much heartache in this world to believe it was made by love for love. Only an inadequate god could have made the world as it is.

Jane is to Helen what Voichita is to Alina, though their roles are reversed — Voichita the believer, Alina the doubter. The girls grew up together in a Romanian orphanage. They had each other. They were inseparable — so close in fact their love became physical too. Some boys may have been attractive, but none could take the place of either girl. Their love sustained and saved them through all the days of growing up without parents.

But now as young women they are separated. Voichita joined the monastery perhaps two or three years ago. Alina meanwhile went to work in Germany. There she was a waitress, among other things. But she got lonely and homesick — lonely for Voichita, homesick for her language, country, personal history. We cross borders but they don’t change us, the past always with us.

Alina is a lost soul. She has no divine love, no transcendent connection to the unity of things, the cosmic to her just an abstraction. It isn’t felt, so the earth is a stranger to her, a place that has lost touch with the cosmos. She wanders it in search of herself, a search that brings her back to Voichita.

Alina returns to Romania and Voichita. They meet in the local station after Alina’s train arrives. Alina is emotional and holds Voichita in a long love embrace. After a spell too long Voichita becomes embarrassed and says, “People are looking.” But Alina holds on, hugging Voichita passionately, not caring what anyone thinks or says.

They walk across hilly fields and along a muddy country road to reach the monastery. It looks hundreds of years old, built from wood and stone. There is no electricity, gas, indoor plumbing. Candles, fireplaces, a wood-fired oven and outdoor well have to suffice. However, they have a motorcar. It’s old and beat up but runs. They need it to keep in contact with the outside world, though they also have cell phones.

Everything in the drama hinges on Alina’s faith. She loves Voichita; that much is apparent. But does she love God just as much, if not more? The monastery is a place for the devout, the committed, not one for doubters, vacillators, unbelievers. So Alina faces a challenge. Can she change? Does she want to? What will it take within her to allow her to change and stay?

And what of Voichita whose faith has been so steadfast? What effect will Alina’s presence at the monastery have on her?

The cinematography is chaste with muted colours, nothing flashy, in keeping with the austerity of the surroundings. If there is sensuality and beauty, it comes from the light and things that reflect it.

The ending, such as it is, is abrupt. Blink in that moment (no special emotional moment) and the film is suddenly over. I guess the director (the talented Cristian Mungiu) preferred ambiguity. In my case, I preferred more narrative information and conventional closure. Instead, this might have happened (though I say it jokingly): the last canister of film spools through to the end and the director says, “O.K., fine,” saving him the trouble of having to yell “Cut!” Cristian Mungiu as Ed Wood. No one at Cannes ever thought of that when they handed out awards to him.
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on 9 April 2018
Too repetetive.Other than that it's a one-time watch.I doubt I'll view it again.Well acted and it's two hours are worth for the horrifying conclussion.
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on 11 February 2014
I'm upset that this 'Artificial Eye' release includes no special features, subtitle options, and lazy DVD authoring but the film it self is one of my favourites.

And I say that because you can see the effort that went into this film on from the actors and certainlky form the direction. There's a heaviness to it that eastern Europeans are good at. The heaviness is, I think, a genuine result of their suppressive history. In this case, the communist legacy lingers over the greater setting of Romania, while a pocket culture of superstitious nuns in an old monastery is doubly suppressive.

The viewer may find himself siding with the dogmatic mindset of the nuns just to keep the peace that is upset by an exhaustively intrusive and obsessive lesbian who refuses to leave the stubborn and insular community to be what it is.

No character in this film is light and carefree and just wants to live life happily. Like with many Eastern European films, as opposed to French and American films, that mindset does not exist in this world. At least not in a way westerners like me would recognize it. Everyone seems consumed by something.
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on 18 August 2015
Extremely powerful movie, some parts will follow you even after ends up. Very well played and Mungiu is master of the game again. I dare to say a classic of world cinema for years to come. Not easy to like and understand but for people with appetite for true 7th art is a delight.
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on 7 January 2018
have not watched it yet -but friends of mine who are educated tell me it is worth buying so I have!
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on 11 October 2016
I couldn't enjoy this movie as the subtitles in english were very erratic..... at times i couldn't follow the conversations ???
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on 26 December 2017
in good condition
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on 7 March 2014
A very interesting story about the conflict between religios love and physical (human love).The film relied on story and acting and a unique setting . It wasarefreshing change from the computer generated mayhem.
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on 21 May 2016
Quite bleak but very powerful.
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on 16 August 2013
Romanian screenwriter, producer and director Cristian Mungiu`s fourth feature film which he wrote and produced, is based on real events which took place in Moldova in 2005 and two non-fictional novels by Romanian author Tatiana Niculescu Bran. It premiered In competition at the 65th Cannes International Film Festival in 2012, was screened in the Masters section at the 37th Toronto International Film Festival in 2012, was shot on location in Romania and is a Romania-France-Belgium co-production. It tells the story about a 24-year-old woman named Alina who travels by train from Germany to Romania where she is reunited with her friend named Voichita whom she was separated from after they left the orphanage they lived in and choose different paths. Voichita whom has become a nun at an Orthodox monastery now lives up in the mountains nearby a village with a monk called Papa and a sister called Mama whom she and the other nuns who lives there regards as Father and Mother superior. Alina is allowed to stay with Voichita after Voichita tells the priest about Alina`s situation, but Alina is not a believer in the same sense as the other ones there and when she realizes how devout and accustomed her former roommate has become to her new life, she begins to question the monk.

Distinctly and engagingly directed by European filmmaker Cristian Mungiu, this finely paced and somewhat fictional tale which is narrated from multiple viewpoints though mostly from the two main characters` viewpoints, draws a consistently gripping and dense portrayal of how a Romanian woman reacts when she learns that the only person in the world whom she trusts and loves has developed an unconditional love for God and renounced her love for real human beings, and how the monk and nuns at a monastery reacts when a woman who does not share their beliefs rocks their boat in the name of love. While notable for its naturalistic milieu depictions, low-keyed and nuanced cinematography by cinematographer Oleg Mutu, production design by production designers Calin Papura and Mihaela Poenaru, costume design by costume designer Dana Paparuz and use of sound, this dialog-driven and narrative-driven story about intentions, choices, the transformation of a person`s personality through indoctrination and the, in this particular case, conflict between sanity and hysteria where materialism and science is replaced by imposed solitude and superstitious experimenting on human lives, depicts two interrelated studies of character about two friends with afflicting and harsh backgrounds who are united by a human connection and separated by religious doctrines.

This psychological, literary, non-judgmental and atmospheric love-story which was chosen as Romania`s official submission to the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 85th Academy Awards in 2013, which is set during a spring in a patriarchal cloister in Romania in the 21st century and where a minor community is trying to get their church consecrated by a bishop, a woman tries to the get her friend to move to Germany with her and religion is a character in itself which confines and directs the other characters, is impelled and reinforced by its cogent narrative structure, substantial character development, efficient continuity, masterful screenplay, multiple and interrelated themes, unsettling undertones, moral intricacies, refined characters, thorough depiction of the nuns` lifestyle, the pivotal scene towards the end when the voice of reason takes command, the subtly understated acting performances by Romanian actresses Cosmina Stratan and Cristina Flutur in their debut feature film roles and the fine acting performances by Moldovan actor Valeriu Andruita and Romanian actress Dana Tapalaga. A phonetic, dramatic and tragically heartrending mystery which gained, among several other awards, the award for Best Director Cristian Mungiu and the award for Best Actress Cosmina Stratan and Cristina Flutur at the 65th Cannes Film Festival in 2012.
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