Reviewed by: Georgiana Musat

"This pleasant, thrilling watch shows Muntean is capable of making great cinema in some of the starkest places." | Photo: Courtesy of Director's Fortnight

There are some villages in Romanian Transylvania so remote from civilisation where not even Santa Claus dares enter (“You didn’t come to us last year”, one of them complains); for many of them, small help comes in some unfashionable bags filled with cans and chips, not quite a dream for winter, yet something to eat for the Christmas table.

Radu Muntean’s new film, muddy road-movie Intregalde, is both about the deliverers, a sum of 30+ Bucharest-bred middle class philanthropists, arriving in jeeps clashing with the population of these villages, humble, poor yet open handed. Three of the adventurers are the protagonists: Maria (Maria Popistasu), Dan (Alex Bogdan) and Ilinca (Ilona Brezoianu), a superbly humorous, hysterical trio. While initially going in the other car with Radu (played by Muntean himself) and his family, Maria moves back with Dan and Ilinca out of boredom.

This change up, due to apparent lack of adventure, will prove itself to be the engine of the whole narration - and actually the alpha of this survival thriller. Their car, owned by Dan but almost sold to Ilinca, has to be tested before making the bargain, which is why Ilinca is driving. On their way they meet an odd local, Kente Aron (Luca Sabin, an one-time actor found in the maddening woods where Muntean was scouting), a loquacious man eternally searching for a lift to the local mill. They take him, not without complaining first about his dirty clothes - however generous the philanthropists’ bags, the bearers have not left their class virtues at home.

Kente insists on taking the risky route, the muddy, foggy forest road - and, needless to say, the SUV won’t make it. There is a sense of mystery, of thrill in the advancing woods, and also a growing contradiction in Kente’s exhausting youth tales - deemed as the village fool, he is the troublemaker with a “waiting-for-Godot” touch of madness, eternally returning to his past workplace, nothing but an abandoned old shack, in the hope of meeting up with his peers, all now dead. Muntean is subtly yet humorously showing this man’s short memory existence, eternally touched by oblivion and madness - there’s no one to take care of him, except for neighbours, who are already overburdened and tired of his meanderings. Maria senses that - she’s the only one in the car who takes time to really make small conversation with him.

Intregalde is a build-up-the-tension feature about limits - be it limits of generosity, limits of madness, limits of survival - in this fight between Kente Aron and the drive-thru-heroes you can’t take sides, everyone is right, hence the tragedy of not being able to accept some people can’t be helped if they don’t want to be.

This is evidently both a Romanian New Wave revival and a Radu Muntean revival, despite being such a weird entry - for such a long time the director was stuck in micro upper-middle class troubles, with protagonists not being able to escape from their own bubbles; a world often neglecting the lower-class bit of Romania. From this perspective, Intregalde is a refined meta take on the matter; Muntean himself plays a small part, so does Alex Baciu, one of the screenwriters (and Popistasu’s husband as well), this feature feels personal and unfeigned, in respect for the people of these villages.

This pleasant, thrilling watch shows Muntean is capable of making great cinema in some of the starkest places - Intregalde is short of any glamour at all, mud is under the skin of this film’s internal texture - and Tudor Panduru’s camerawork, constantly moving, sticks to the character’s reactions and abrupt changes, somewhat anticipating the chaos around. There are no bears or wild animals involved - that would have spiced this low-key dramedy too much for its own good.

Reviewed on: 12 Jul 2021
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A group of people on a humanitarian mission arrive in a remote area of Transylvania to offer the inhabitants various goods, but when they try to help a disorientated local, things take a turn for the worse.

Director: Radu Muntean

Writer: Alexandru Baciu, Radu Muntean, Razvan Radulescu

Starring: Maria Popistasu, Ilona Brezoianu, Alex Bogdan

Year: 2021

Runtime: 128 minutes

Country: Romania

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