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I think the reason why this film stirred so much excitement, in particular around the fact of it not getting nominated for best foreign-language film at the Oscars, lies only in the fact that Americans are not very used to intense chamber-like drama anymore. The film is very good, no doubt, but I would guess that at any given moment, there are 20 films in European cinemas that are of siimilar quality. It features a terrific horrific villain who can easily match Javier Bardem’s latest man-eating character, has a painful scene of suspense when the “heroine” is caught in a horrible family birthday party, while her friend and sister in suffering is lying in a hotel bed, waiting for her bodily tortures to commence. There is a powerful reconstruction of the dull atmosphere that was most characteristic of all those pseudo-communist dictatorships in Europe’s East, and there is an excellent juxtaposition of the inept and clueless central character, who would completely collapese without the sidekick taking care of things. Screentime actually reflects this, und reverses roles accordingly. I found this to be maybe the most interesting feature, that the support cast is being established as the actual lead not just in terms of content and plot drive, but actually in terms of presence.
Excellent drama, with creative, yet no-frills, camera work. Another astonishing example of current Romanian cinematic resurgence!
Roger Ebert
NY Times
Salon.com

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