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Bacalaureat – Young Critics Workshop

Bacalaureat (Cristian Mungiu, 2016)

Cristian Mungiu’s Bacalaureat, or Graduation, starts out with a rock flying through a window of the protagonist’s house, as if to grab the audience’s attention from the first minute. Sadly, as quickly as it was caught, my attention was lost again. Not that the story is boring through and through. It is of utmost importance for doctor Romeo Aldea (Adrian Titieni) that his daughter Eliza (Maria-Victoria Dragus) can study in the UK and flee the rotten country that Romania has become. This all becomes very uncertain when, tantalizingly close to graduating from high school, she gets sexually assaulted, endangering her final exam results. In a series of conversations, which I found rightfully painful to watch, Romeo gives in to the temptations of bribery in an effort to make sure his daughter can pass her exams. Sadly, a whole other definition of the word ‘painful’ comes to my mind when one of the many lengthy dialogues about ostensibly trivial matters seems to go on for ages.

Combined with the troubled relationship he has with his daughter and the acts of adultery he commits while neglecting his severely depressed wife, the story of Romeo’s start down a path of corruption seems to imply that the physician deserves everything that is coming to him, even the random acts of vandalism that seem to revolve around him. This is accentuated by the camerawork, which keeps Romeo in focus for a great deal of the film. Even when we are looking at his back, he gets the camera’s undivided attention. Perhaps if the character did a better job at eliciting sympathy, he would have held my attention as well.