Cristian Mungiu's masterful slow-burn drama poses a series of fascinating moral dilemmas
The road to hell is paved with good intentions in Graduation, the latest weighty, complex drama from Cristian Mungiu, the director of 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. Mungiu has a rare ability to glimpse into the soul of modern Romania and find the personal dilemmas that strike a universal chord.
Dr Romeo Aldea (Adrian Titieni) simply wants the best for his daughter Eliza (Maria Dragus). She has been awarded a scholarship to study psychology in the United Kingdom. He believes that there is nothing for her in the provincial Romanian town of Cluj and education might be her only escape route. All she has to do now is pass her graduation exams with flying colours. However, on the day of the first session, Eliza is attacked and left badly shaken. It is one of several incidents that create a sense of unease that Michael Haneke might admire.
Aldea's main concern is how the attack will affect her academic performance. The temptation to ask for a favour and look for special treatment is the first stage in a series of compromises where Aldea gradually loses his moral bearings. The issue becomes whether Eliza is willing to become complicit in his actions.
Beautifully acted by Romanian veteran Titieni and Dragus (The White Ribbon), Graduation is a slow-burner but it has an intensity that grows utterly compelling as Mungiu carefully reveals more of Aldea's hidden life and guilty secrets. His unfussy, unobtrusive style invites you to become immersed in the unfolding drama, pondering how you would react in such a situation, rather then rushing to condemn. In Mungiu's world everyone is imperfect and everyone has their reasons for acting the way they do. It's what makes his films so human, and so true to life.
Selected release from Fri 31 Mar.