REVIEW: AFERIM!

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★★★★

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.

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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

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