on the grass along the water
Long Island City
32-01 Vernon Boulevard, Long Island City, NY 11106
Take the N or Q train to the Broadway stop in Queens and walk eight blocks west on Broadway (toward the East River) to the intersection of Vernon Boulevard.
Domestic (Adrian Sitaru | Romania | 82 min.)
Romanian New Wave Cinema is known for finding beauty in stark realism, seeking compassion in bleak circumstances. Acclaimed films such as The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Cristi Puiu, 2005), 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu, 2007) or The Tube with a Hat (Radu Jude, 2007 at Rooftop Films), paint a picture of country still suffering after decades of totalitarian rule, where resources are scarce but people show pragmatic ingenuity and fierce determination to achieve their modest goals. Romanian director Adrian Sitaru’s Domestic follows these emotional and intellectual traditions, but takes a slightly different path, with off-beat comedy, elaborate choreography and lush set decoration.
The film is centered in a single building, and it appears that the crumbling vestiges of Romania’s poorer more chaotic days are being patched over. Following three men and their families, we find their homes small but densely well-appointed, the carefully composed images often highlighting a plethora of strange objects, not the least of which are the family “pets” (or other unusually domesticated animals: rabbits, hens, pigeons). As scenes play out in single, long takes, with action taking place in multiple layers of depth, moving in and out of the complex takes on a fun house feel. These movements mirror the character’s emotional secrecy, from the confused and heartbroken man mourning the loss of his daughter with an illicit lover, to the blunt and bold dad who overshares the honest truth with his son. The passage of the animals -- from owner to owner, from playpen to dinner table -- structure the film, but they are ciphers (sometimes sentimental, sometimes darkly comic) for the emotional and intellectual lives of the characters.
"We've all had animals and loved them,” said Sitaru. “We all have responsibilities to the ones we love and live with and we all make mistakes." Sitaru is a master of crafting quirky situations in which the underlying ideas run counter to the obvious, and in this delightfully unusual film, Sitaru discovers love and tenderness (and humor) that is all the more exquisite for existing in such unexpected places, people and pets.
- Mark Elijah Rosenberg