Radu Jude’s new film – Everybody in our Family – is a solid post-marital family drama set in the capital of Romania, Bucharest. It’s an enjoyable piece of film for fans of the realist genre. It is darkly comical – often leaving you unknowing whether to cringe or laugh; often doing both simultaneously.
Marius (Serban Pavlu) – the forty-something protagonist is woken by his ghastly alarm; restless in his cramped apartment with the din of passing traffic adding to the general tension and isolation you sense coming from his character.
Finally rousing himself from slumber after several bouts of tossing and turning – the first words he utters in response to a text is “fuck off”. Ahem. Easy Marius! It quickly sets the tone of an agitated depressed man.
Ironically he always appears a loving father; it’s this love that is destroying him
Marius is estranged from his daughter Sofia (Sofia Nicolaescu) who lives with her mother Otilia (Mihaela Sirbu) and her mother’s boyfriend Aurel (Gabriel Spahiu) in Marius’s old family home after Otilia left him for a new life.
It’s Marius’s legal time to see his daughter and he’s hurtling down a busy main road on his bicycle carrying a huge soft octopus toy on the back for Sofia. He’s planned to take her to the seaside for a few days; but his family has other ideas and tries everything to stop him. ‘Sofia has a fever’ (she clearly doesn’t) – ‘you must wait for her mother to come back’ – ‘her mother is the legal guardian’ – before Aurel is blockading the door as Marius rightfully tries to leave with Sofia: provoking Marius to become aggressive. Incidentally Aurel gets the door slammed against his head.
With Aurel now sporting a wound it immediately aggravates Otilia when she finally arrives home. It’s clear they oppose Marius taking Sofia anywhere – despite his being reasonable; and it quickly descends into violence and chaos. Oh, and Marius’s being reasonable goes soundly out the window.
Marius beats Aurel up, threatens to ‘behead’ him, and wraps duck-tape around his mouth and hands – to ‘keep him quiet’; then tries desperately to reason once again with Otilia. Expletive rich in response to her not flinching; it descends further with Marius duck-taping Otilia and Aurel together in the cramped living room. Interspersed with comments from Otilia’s mother who is clearly, and rightfully exasperated and emotional by the circumstances. Adding to the tension; Marius decides in his manic-rational way to lock her in a bedroom with Sofia to keep them both quiet as the police are kept waiting at the door; apparently with no one inside despite an earlier report from Otilia. The hostages are all wailing in their muffled way and it’s clear that Marius won’t really hurt anyone. This is what makes it so humourous – given the sinister nature of duck-taping hostages. Ironically he always appears a loving father; it’s this love that is destroying him.
It’s unclear why Marius decides to leave the apartment by climbing through a window (probably to escape the police) – and evade being seen as the perpetrator of what now has become a heinous crime. In his metaphysical and physical descent he falls from a wall as a neighbour refuses to offer help when he gets stuck; this adds to Marius’s role as victim of circumstance rather than the maniac the other characters, and likely some viewers perceive him.
“I wanted to portray the ridiculous in life” says director Radu Jude
With his head cut through his fall he runs in his bloodied shirt down a highway in the flow of traffic – a scene not lost on the symbolic. After being helped by chemist staff – whose advice says he should get stiches, he leaves the shop – ditches his electric cigarette and asks a guy for ‘a real one’. Marius walks off smoking with his heavily bandaged bloody head and the credits start to roll.
“I wanted to portray the ridiculous in life.” Says Radu Jude – and when asked if it was autobiographical, “No it’s not autobiographical. I mean, some things are autobiographical – all the nicest parts. I lived through a divorce and I have a kid and it’s a difficulty.” He says. I doubt the film would’ve felt so genuine if he hadn’t experienced similar family troubles; powerless frustration was the theme – but I doubt he expressed himself with such extremes as Marius. “I just have to react to things that happen in my life and I just thought they could be relevant to other people.”
With the high-tempo semi-improvised dialogue it’s impossible to get the full translation in subtitles, “It’s a film based a lot on this nonsense talking, and it’s really a lot of dialogues and monologues that get lost in translation.” Says Radu. This one polarised moment in a family’s life is enjoyable to watch. But you’ll get a sense the film has been cut short and draws no conclusion despite it being 108 minutes long. It seems to stop mid-plot and abruptly. Almost turning it into a soap opera where you’re itching to know the next episode.
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