Romeo Aldea is a physician living in a small mountain town in Transylvania, where he has raised his daughter Eliza with the idea that once she turns 18, she will leave to study and live abroad. His plan is close to succeeding — Eliza has won a scholarship to study psychology in the UK. She just has to pass her final exams, a formality for such a good student. But on the day before her first written exam, Eliza is assaulted in an attack that could jeopardize her entire future. Now Romeo has to make a decision. There are ways of solving the situation, but none of them using the principles he, as a father, has taught his daughter.
Graduation (Romanian: Bacalaureat; working title: Family Photos) is a 2016 Romanian film directed by Cristian Mungiu and starring Adrian Titieni. The story is set in a small Romanian town and focuses on a doctor. It was selected to compete for the Palme d’Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. At Cannes, Mungiu shared the Best Director Award with Olivier Assayas for his film Personal Shopper.
According to Cristian Mungiu the film was inspired by where he was in life and therefore focuses on parenting. The film was produced through the director’s company Mobra Films and co-produced with Why Not Productions, Wild Bunch, Les Films du Fleuve, France 3 Cinéma and Mandragora Movies. It received 1.91 million leu from the National Film Center. It was shot in the town Victoria from 11 June to 24 July 2015.
About teh Film
Former Palme d’Or winner Cristian Mungiu returns to Cannes with Bacalaureat, an engrossing study of conflict between public morals and necessary compromises. Another Romanian entry to this year’s competition, the slowly unfurling tale depicts the insidious effects of endemic corruption within the Eastern European country.
The thin end of the wedge is represented through nepotism and small favours, which spiral deeper into blackmail attempts and criminal injustice. But this is mostly a film about fathers and daughters: a parent’s choice of offering paternalism and positive liberty, and a child’s desire for independence and autonomy.
Adrian Titieni plays Romeo, a respected doctor in a small Romanian town near Transylvania with a network of useful contacts across a variety of public institutions: in health, education and the police. His daughter Eliza (Maria-Victoria Dragus, of Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon) is a brilliant student, due to earn a conditional scholarship in psychology at Cambridge University.
The day before her final exams she is assaulted and raped outside her school by an unknown assailant. Men, including her father, emphasise the assault; women, including her mother Magda (Lia Bugnar), do not dare downplay the fact that it was rape, despite the apparent flaccidity of the attacker.
The fracture is only the beginning of a severance. Romeo’s concern for his daughter is twofold: obvious anguish at her injuries, but a further acknowledgement of the importance of her upcoming exams. Sensing Eliza’s disillusionment and distress, he attempts to circumvent the rules of the process, enlisting help from various high-ups to whom backhand deals are common currency. The film then carefully and complexly attempts to pinpoint whose best interests are served by such machinations.
Mungiu fascinatingly and painstakingly prods at the moral dilemmas that dominate Romeo’s life. Romeo cares deeply for his family, but is a constant philanderer. He believes in teaching honesty and respect, but eschews both traits when the occasion suits. As he castigates a young boy for throwing stones, we see an explanation for Eliza’s new-found resistance and disdain for her father. There are problems: the middle section is extremely cluttered, with several plot strands later left by the wayside, and Dragus’s performance as Eliza is a strangely muted one. Minor issues though, this is thoughtful, absorbing filmmaking.
Gradution – Bacalaureat
Directed by: Cristian Mungiu
Starring: Adrian Titieni, Maria-Victoria Dragus, Rares Andrici, Lia Bugnar, Malina Manovici, Vlad Ivanov, Valeriu Andriutã, Eniko Benczo, Petre Ciubotaru
Screenplay by: Cristian Mungiu
Production Design by: Simona Paduretu
Cinematography by: Tudor Vladimir Panduru
Film Editing by: Mircea Olteanu
Costume Design by: Brandusa Ioan
Set Decoration by: Anca Perja
MPAA Rating: R for some language.
Distributed by: Sundance Selects
Release Date: April 7, 2017