MIRACLE (Miracol)

Film Movement
Reviewed for &, linked from Rotten Tomatoes and the IMDB by Harvey Karten
Director: Bogdan George Apetri
Screenwriter: Bogdan George Apetri
Cast: Ioana Bugarin, Emanuel Parvu, Cezar Antal, Ovidiu Crisan, Valeriu Andriuta, Valentin Popescu
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 5/5/22
Opens: June 10, 2022 at New York’s Film Forum

Film buffs literate enough to read subtitles may be familiar with wonderful films coming out of Romania. “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu” about how the title figure is bounced around from hospital to hospital because the staff are either disgusted with a smelly drunk or just do not care one way of another about a dying fellow, is considered by the NY Times to be the Fifth Best Picture of the 21st Century. “ 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days,” which takes on the subject of illegal abortions, aims at the abortionist who will not do the job unless the patient has sex with him. This one is Number 15 on BBC’s One Hundred Best Films of our century. And that’s not just the hundred best films of Romania but of all the movies that come to us from around the world.

If “Lazarescu” shows Romania’s lack of caring, “4 Months” examines the evil deed of one particular man, though an
indictment at the country in its fading communist days when its leaders wanted to product babies for sale to rich Western customers.

Placing “Miracle” within the framework of a failed East European government may be more difficult, though it does indict our capacity to commit violence that makes you wonder just what kind of feral animal homo sapiens might be. The second of a trilogy, but fully able to stand on its own, “Miracle” is divided into two chapters. The first part centers on a nineteen-year-old novice living for just two months in a convent while the second focuses on a police inspector willing to plant evidence to gain a promotion. The movie is directed by New York based Bogdan George Apetri, born in Piatra Neamt, Romania, forty-six years ago, known by fans of Romania cinema for “Unidentified,” about an unsolved crime and an obsessed cop (an obvious prelude to the current offering).

Cristina Tofan (Iona Bugarin) hops into a car driven by the brother of a young convent resident, appearing sullen almost throughout the drama, especially while getting a talk from the passenger in the back seat who rails against the church, specifically the practice of government to grant the institution tax-free status while building more and more convents as though to take advantage of the largesse. The driver stops the car to allow Cristina to change out of her habit, tells the doctor in the back seat that she is going to see someone about her headaches, but when nobody’s looking heads over to the ob/gyn. You can guess for what purpose. On the way back she is picked up by a different driver who is not the nerdy family man he presents himself to be. After committing a crime, one that results in Critina’s prolonged howls and screams, the case is taken on by Inspector Marius Preda (Emanuel Parvu). With one suspect under arrest for a dastardly crime, the cop is under a deadline to get the guy to confess before he must release him. Planting evidence is not beneath his sense of ethics.

Parvu plays the police officer as a doesn’t-suffer-fools-gladly, putting down the assistant who calls him “boss” and who irritates the fellow each time he invokes religion. Though Marius is not opposed to framing a suspect, his regular taunts at the assistant for talking how everything is up to God, Aperti may be hinting that nobody really believes in the moral teachings of the church but almost everyone is pretending to practice them.

The miracle of the title becomes known during his second chapter in a film that ratchets the tension, first when we suspect that Cristina’s second driver, the one taking her back to the convent, is not who we think he is; the second as the inspector works the suspect over to such a degree that the officers accompanying him in the police car are horrified. There is no soundtrack except for the music played on the car radios, the choice of “oldies” perhaps a metaphor for the feeling that people were not always so uncaring before the days of communism. Nor is music needed. You can imagine how Hollywood would remake this policier, abandoning the long takes and destroying the slow and steady evocation of national rot.

118 minutes. © 2022 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B+
Acting – A-
Technical – B
Overall – B+

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