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September 23, 2013

Marti, dupa craciun

by Franz Patrick


Marti, dupa craciun (2010)
★★★ / ★★★★

Paul (Mimi Branescu) splits his time between two women. The first is with his wife, Adriana (Mirela Oprisor), a lawyer who seems to command a rather cold comportment when we meet her for the first time. The other is his mistress, Raluca (Maria Popistasu), a warm and carefree dentist. The mistress knows that Paul is married and has a daughter. Meanwhile, the wife knows nothing about the affair. It is only a matter of time until the secret is out.

“Marti, dupe craciun,” based on the screenplay by Alexandru Braciu, Radu Muntean, and Razvan Radulescu, has a penchant for long takes which works to its advantage. Although the characters talk about mundane things like which Christmas presents to buy or what to add to the shopping list, the content of the tête-à-têtes almost do not matter. Emphasis is often placed on how one behaves and relates to another.

The trip to the dentist is a good example. Paul and his daughter are the only ones that Raluca expects to see for the appointment. Due to certain things that happened in Adriana’s workplace, she was allowed to leave early and join her family. If one observes closely, although Raluca is very uncomfortable with meeting Paul’s wife, her eyes are always on Adriana. She explains about their daughter’s underbite and why intervening as soon as possible is necessary in a thorough manner.

The dentist is seemingly in control on the outside but since we have a full picture of what is going on between her and Paul, we are attuned to the fact that she is likely to be very nervous, angry, and afraid on the inside. Notice that the only time that the dentist and Paul make eye contact is when the he asks a question about her daughter’s braces and, as a professional, Raluca is required to make eye contact with her underaged patient’s father. The film is executed in such a way that it gives us room to feel and think about the characters: what they might be going through internally given a set of factors.

The extended takes also works in showing us the ennui of Paul and Raluca’s marriage. It is not that they are unhappy so much as they have gotten used to each other. Paul, unfortunately, is unable to tell the difference between the two and the material shows, without judgment, why he feels the need to find excitement somewhere else. It makes sense that he finds someone very different than Adriana in physicality and personality. So it is worth asking: Is Paul attracted to Raluca because she is her own person or is it because she embodies traits that are complete opposite of Adriana’s?

Since this is a marriage drama, it is expected that Adriana eventually finds out about the affair. However, the material gathers tension and is able to keep hold onto it because the character can be a challenge to predict. Oprisor plays Adriana strength and complexity. We understand the character’s heartbreak and, consequentially, her rage.

Directed by Radu Muntean, the film, also known as “Tuesday, After Christmas,” is shot and executed with great control. The script may not have adornments in terms of dialogue and plot but the emotions and implications captured are revealing.

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