When Evening Falls On Bucharest, Or Metabolism


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

When Evening Falls On Bucharest, Or Metabolism
"Is Porumboiu simply seeing how much he can get away with? How far does this artistic experiment extend beyond the screen?"

No matter the art form, no matter the age, it has always been difficult to develop successful creative dialogues about boredom. Give how many people it affects, and how deeply, and given how much we might learn about ourselves from it, it's undoubtedly an important subject, but artists have always tended to approach it as an adjunct to another story, from Giovanni di Pietro's challenge to Christian assurance in The Agony In The Garden to, say, most of the early films of Malcolm McDowell. In this film, Corneliu Porumboiu strips away those conceits and dares to look boredom straight in the face. The result? A very boring experience for the viewer. But is it a useful or meaningful one?

Schopenhauer called boredom one of the twin evils of life, but more recently it has been considered by philosophers as something important to the creative process. Porumboiu's story, such as it is, focuses on an ostensibly creative man, film director Paul (Bogdan Dumitrache), who delays shooting on an already close-to-time film in order to prolong his seduction of an actress who, even if she will sleep with him, probably won't look twice at him afterwards - for her, sex is part of the routine. He wants her to shoot a nude scene but hasn't thought it through very well, and each time she comes up with a suggestion he goes to more laborious lengths to retain creative (and thereby personal) dominance, so the scene becomes more and more contrived. There's satire here, of course, but Porumboiu deliberately sidelines it. Instead we watch Paul, who cannot bring himself to put his questions directly, talk about everything else.

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Paul's ramblings are not particularly intelligent or insightful; Porumboiu doubtless knows this. He cuts them down with little gestures - Paul talking at length, over dinner, about the development of different culinary traditions, then smoking. When Paul drives his car through the city, still blethering away at poor Alina (Diana Avramut), it's had not to fall asleep at the wheel. Paul's producer (Mihaela Sirbu) is frustrated. She insists that he prove his supposed illness with a video of his endoscopy. We are treated to prolonged images of somebody's insides. Is Porumboiu simply seeing how much he can get away with? How far does this artistic experiment extend beyond the screen?

Viewers will have to answer these questions for themselves. If you're an average film fan who catches this at the cinema on a whim because the blockbusters are all sold out, you're liable to spend the rest of your life telling people how much you hate art films (and missing out on lots of enjoyable stuff as a consequence). If you're intrigued by experimental film, you may find it delightful. If you loved Birdman, you probably deserve it. Perhaps the most interesting question is who Porumboiu will choose to troll next.

Reviewed on: 01 Dec 2015
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When Evening Falls On Bucharest, Or Metabolism packshot
A director and his leading actress converse off set about the difficulty of capturing reality.

Director: Corneliu Porumboiu

Writer: Corneliu Porumboiu

Starring: Bogdan Dumitrache, Diana Avramut, Mihaela Sirbu, Alexandru Papadopol

Year: 2013

Runtime: 89 minutes

Country: Romania, France

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