Director: Corneliu Porumboiu
Screenwriter: Corneliu Porumboiu
Director of Photography:
Running time: 110 min
Original title: Poliţist, Adjectiv
Cristi is a policeman, but he does not have the kind of life we have come to associate, through the American film industry, with the cop genre. He has been assigned to a case of teenage marijuana consumption, and by the looks of things, this is going to be about as exciting as watching paint dry. The opening scene consists of Cristi following a teenage boy between his school and his home. Perhaps another film would have created some mystery about Cristi’s intentions – I’m thinking of the Dardennes brothers’ The Son (le Fils). But Cristi’s lack of self-consciousness indicates that he has probably done this kind of thing before and that he is very likely a policeman.
Our suspicions are confirmed in the following scene, at a meeting between him and one of his superiors. This is also one of the rare times that Cristi, whose face is generally expressionless, betrays any emotion. He has been following the teenage boy and his friends for a while, and has dutifully written up and submitted his detailed reports, but he finds the mission rather senseless, since no other country in Europe would prosecute anybody for smoking marijuana. He suggests they go after a friend, who might be a dealer, but his superior dismisses his suggestion.
The rest of the film contains many more scenes, often filmed in long takes, of Cristi tailing one of the schoolchildren. Sometimes he is lucky: they smoke something and he gets to recover the butt, to determine whether it was tobacco or marijuana. But more often than not, he just notes down a vehicle registration number or a visitor’s times of arrival and departure.
As far as long takes are concerned, the film seems to have a Tarr-esque obsession with recording the passage of time, and in two scenes director Corneliu Porumboiu films actor Dragoş Bucur, who plays Cristi, eating alone at his small kitchen table. The one takes place in complete silence, the other is accompanied by the very bad music (“Nu te părăsesc iubire” by Mirabela Dauer) played on youtube by Cristi’s wife, with whom he is clearly not very enamoured. And we are not much taken with her either, given her choice of song and her choice to repeat the song ad nauseam.
The film is ultimately an intellectual exercise about the use of language. This film is, by no means, the kind of film one has in mind when thinking of a “police film”, which demonstrates the conventional use of “police” as an adjective, but which this film does not exemplify. So what? The scenes showing Cristi’s anxiety at challenging the status quo, namely his superiors, are infinitely more illuminating, and constitute the only real points of dramatic interest in this film.