Dir. Radu Jude, 2015
Aferim! is a throwback. It successfully combines a Spaghetti Western aesthetic (huge, dusty vistas) with the jet-black humour of the Romanian New Wave.
Directed by Radu Jude, of Lampa cu căciulă fame, the story follows a 19th-century policeman (Teodor Corban) as he pursues a runaway Gypsy slave through the Wallachian countryside. The characters we meet along the way are spit-flecked, grimy and, to my mind, wholly authentic.
The film’s bright monochrome, combined with its bizarre costumes and coarse languages, envelops the audience – drawing them into an uncompromising and shocking world of anti-Semitism, autocratic brutality, sex and all-powerful religion.
Teodor Corban is excellent as the policeman Costandin, a cynical intellectual in a landscape of feudal prejudice. Moreover, Mihai Comănoiu, who plays Constandin’s son Ionita, is a perfect counterpoint to his father: naïve and well-meaning. It is their relationship that holds Aferim! together.
The movie’s tone is not faint-hearted – you won’t find a happy beginning, middle or ending here. Instead, Aferim! is a well-balanced portrait of a thoroughly unfashionable and often squalid period of Romanian history. You have been warned.
WORDS: MAX FIGGETT