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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Aferim!

Radu Jude - Romania
A crisp black and white landscape fills the screen. In 1835 in Wallachia, Romania, a local policeman Costandin and his son are tasked with hunting down a runaway gypsy slave. They make their way across the rural landscape slowly tracking down the slave and coming upon many interesting characters along the way.
The interesting aspects of Aferim! comes from its artistic devices. The black and white is sharp and beautifully rendered, with shadows and contrasts making it beautifully expressive. The dialogue, which is almost Shakespearean in its wit, is droll and fascinating, particularly because some of it comes from contemporary writings giving it a feeling of authenticity. From the perspective of its artistry, it is not surprising that director Radu Jude won the Silver Bear for Best Director at the festival.
This doesn’t save it from being an incredibly tedious work. There is very little to the story. Essentially Costandin and his son are looking for a gypsy, find a gypsy and bring him back to his master, and along the way meet some people with different prejudiced outlooks. At some points this can be interesting and funny, but after a while the dragging story leads to the dialogue feeling old and uninteresting and one begins to wonder how long this can possibly go on for. According to the press materials, there is much to be appreciated when comparing the historical context of the film to modern Romania, and perhaps this is true and would mean the film is engaging for those with a more comprehensive understanding of Romanian culture, history, and society. Nevertheless, for the more average viewer without this contextual background, Aferim! is merely a beautiful film with practically no story in which an hour and fifty minute running time begins to feel like five hours. (RF)

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