Spearheading the Romanian new wave and one of the most intriguing, interesting and confounding of his countrymen, Cristi Puiu has an eye for the epic. Whether it’s his hilariously obtuse The Death of Mr Lazarescu, oddly engaging Sieranevada or the pleasantly baffling Aurora, he can never be accused of not making his audience work for their money. He trains his camera on the upper classes in his new period drama, Malmkrog.
A group gather at the titular manor house of a wealthy landowner (Frédéric Schulz-Richard) over the Christmas holidays. The quintet comprises a politician, a countess, a general and his wife. Whilst there’s plenty to eat and drink, the food on offer is more for the brain. The coterie, observing the formalities of polite society, discuss a range of topics including politics, the nature of war, nationalism and religion. As their stay progresses, fissures begin to show and the conversation becomes increasingly tense.
To say that Malmkrog won’t be for everyone, is a profound understatement. Puiu expects diligent concentration from his audience, who are relentlessly assailed with a barrage of intellectual arguments. The cast handle the material admirably and it’s fascinating to watch the subtle interplay between them. Having said that, it is so abstruse, at times, that it’s impossible to say whether it’s brilliant or banal. Either way, Malmkrog is an impeccably crafted and a studiously mannered chamber drama.
Malmkrog will be released in virtual cinemas and on VoD on 26 March.