Police, Adjective (Politist, Adjectiv)
- Tom Dawson
- 22 September 2010
Romanian writer-director Corneliu Porumboiu’s follow-up to 12:08 East of Bucharest is a deliberately paced and deceptively simple police procedural, which unfolds in the dreary streets of the filmmaker’s provincial home town of Vasilu. Its protagonist Cristi (Dragos Bucur) is a recently married undercover cop, who’s carrying out a surveillance operation on a dope-smoking teenager, Viktor (Radu Costin). In a series of lengthy, real-time takes, the camera follows Cristi on his lonely daily routines. Cristi tails his suspect and the latter’s friends, he requests background information from his colleagues at the station, he smokes endless cigarettes. His superiors want an arrest, but Cristi has qualms about sending a schoolboy to jail for what he deems to be a minor offence.
Police, Adjective is an anti-thriller, which ignores generic conventions: there’s no dramatic action sequences and no miraculous discoveries during the investigation, while music is used sparingly. Yet paradoxically for a film filled with silences, it becomes a philosophical enquiry into the relationship between language and power. Cristi’s own written reports on his actions are scrolled across the screen. And in a climactic dialogue scene the implacable Captain (a superb cameo from Vlad Ivanov) uses a dictionary – hence the story’s unusual title – to assert the law of the state over an individual’s conscience. Twenty years after the revolution, it seems, authoritarian mentalities remain entrenched.
GFT, Glasgow, Fri 1–Thu 7 Oct; Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Fri 1–Thu 14 Oct.