By Mónica Delgado
The old premise of getting lost in the woods, addressed in cinema specially in the fantasy genre, is transformed by the gaze of the Romanian Radu Muntean into an opportunity to test a group of urban characters confronting a rural world anchored in time. In Întregalde (2021), a convoy of 4 x 4 and other off-road trucks from Bucharest ride in an humanitarian or charitable work trip through some villages in the most remote areas of Transylvania. What begins as a rewarding activity between middle-class families and friends carrying bags of canned food, turns into a nightmare when one of these three-member’s cars (played by Maria Popistasu, Ilona Brezoianu and Alex Bogdan) is left behind, stuck in the mud due to some wrong directions given by a local.
Beyond this starting point, of characters immersed in a hostile terrain in the middle of winter, what Muntean transmits in Întregalde is the inability to achieve any empathy from some characters (and what they represent): For example, an old man who disorients the travelers (and that later we know suffers from dementia), which helps to reflect a lack of knowledge of rurality in all its structure and operation. At the beginning of the film, when these three characters ask for help from this inhabitant who crossed the narrow path, and put him in the car to guide them on the route to the next town, his presence works as a destabilizing factor, not only because of the subsequent entanglements or confusion, but rather in relation to a clear and classist social distance: the new character is assumed and commented on as strange, dirty, liar. In this sense, this character, called Kente, who bursts onto the scene, appears to make a paradox visible: that of the performative humanitarian aid, with an empty altruistic gesture, which does not become an awareness of the subordinate position of those who help. It seems that Muntean (as happens with the critical eye of other Romanian filmmakers in recent years) tries to undo these settings of a humanizing surface, based on characters who lose their minds and become selfish beings (here associated with urban alienation) in contrast to other social classes (such as the rural old man with dementia who seems to live in abandonment) who live in ostracism and poverty. And, above all, from the forms of social satire, here halfway between elements of the road movie or the horror film.
There is a previous scene in which the two women of this group arrive at the house of a humble woman who lies sleeping. Upon entering they see that the woman has a sick arm, but they only make a comment and leave a bag of food, and without wanting to commit themselves they quickly leave the place, since it seems that the goal is to deliver these aids, fulfill a pseudo philanthropic desire, and not assisting people in their real problems, paying attention to their shortcomings. This key, in its sense and performance, appears throughout the film, but especially in relation to the character of the old man, who works as a mirror to evade, something that these characters ultimately seek (to marry, have children, travel) as life goals.
After films like Tuesday After Christmas (2010), One Floor Below (2015) and Alice T. (2018), Muntean affirms himself here as a filmmaker who handles very well the ingredients of a social satire from these distances and minimal correspondences, with the solidarity or empathy practices that he proposes as a plot. It is a film about how an idea of ??otherness is affirmed, about how ideas are built on others and taken as certainties, and how these imageries from otherness materialize from the visual, especially in the entire final part, where the subjects of observation, surrendered to an inquiring gaze, afraid of intruding, of being part of that passing community, appear. In this sense, Întregalde is a great job.
Director: Radu Muntean
Script: Alex Baciu, Radu Muntean, Razvan Radulescu
Photography: Tudor Vladimir Panduru
Editing: Andu Rudu
Production Design: Anca Lazar
Cast: Maria Popistasu, Ilona Brezoianu, Alex Bogdan, Luca Sabin, Toma Cuzin, Gabor Bondi, Radu Muntean, Carmen Lopazan, Luca Elena, Luca Maria, Vlad Oancea, Victor Neagoe
Production Company: Multimedia Est, The East Company Productions
Rumania, 2021, 104