He drives around Bucharest, tidies his apartment, lurks behind parked cars, buys a rifle – it’s hard to gauge the overall plan of the taciturn individual played by writer-director Cristi Puiu.
Information is not forthcoming, since this expansive, deliberately-paced exercise in grimy minimalism refuses to sift key plot points from mundane inconsequentiality. Given the presence of the rifle, there’s a certain sense of foreboding, which turns out to be justified.
As much as one admires the underlying tension Puiu brings to a series of expertly choreographed extended takes, his film demands close attention for three hours, only to deliver a relatively straightforward correlation between the viewer’s often frustrating search for meaningful connections, and its portrait of a protagonist driven to extreme measures to re-order the narrative of his own life.
Closer to the philosophical and formal concerns of fellow Romanian new waver Corneliu Porumboiu’s ‘Police, Adjective’ than Puiu’s more concise breakthrough ‘The Death of Mr Lazarescu’, this is thoughtful and imposing, yet wilfully long.