Tranquil, realistic new Romanian cinema with faith in its style and underground intensity, without any additional strength or originality, from the director of “Tuesday, After Christmas”.
Radu Muntean is a wonderful director, as he demonstrated in “Tuesday, After Christmas”. In his new film, “One Floor Below”, he insists so much on the low key, surreptitiously tense, abstract, realistic new Romanian cinema that his film leaves the viewer untouched.
Film’s main hero, Patrascu – as everyone, even his wife, calls him, i.e., by his surname – is a happy family-man and hard worker who strives to find free time to coach his beloved dog in the park and works on his own, declaring to the authorities new cars owned by others, relieving them from all the tedious paperwork. Whatever one wants, Patrascu can take care of. Returning home one day, he hears from the apartment downstairs a couple arguing violently. Shortly after, the woman is found dead. Patrascu knows that the husband, Vali Dima, is the culprit. Vali knows that Patrascu knows the truth. The viewer knows everything. For some reason, however, Patrascu decides not to say anything.
Sketching Patrascu’s character is the most beautiful element of the film. A man who believes he can manage and does arrange everything by himself, cannot take, however, the initiative when the circumstance demands it. Perhaps because he considers that this, the murder, can alsobe “taken care of” in his usual manner, without the authorities even if taking the law in his own hands is not an option. Perhaps because he, despite being a hands-on guy, feels remorse for failing to intervene and prevent the murder. In any case, this contrast between a cloudless routine and an increasingly intensified abandonment and guilt is the driving force of the film.
On the other hand, Muntean tells his story in a specific style that has prevailed as “the new Romanian cinema” and which, either because of generation or tradition, constitutes indeed an identity in itself. Absolute realism, moderate pace and an underlying intensity that is developed and diffused, without outbursts or any important events, without an obvious source but with a successful range. So in this film, Muntean checks off all the necessary elements of the cinema he loves. For extra strength, originality and particularity, we will have to wait for his next film.