thought they were like the Romanian Algonquin Round Table. They just happened
to be confined to a sanitarium. As they quip and carp their days away, some
will get better, but most will not. Sadly, 1930s Romanian medical treatment engenders
little confidence in Radu Jude’s Scarred
which screens during the 2017 New York Jewish Film Festival.
Scarred Hearts is not precisely
based on the writings of M. [Max] Blecher, but it is inspired and informed by
his autobiographical fiction. Emanuel will be Jude’s stand-in for Blecher or
rather lay-in. Like Blecher, the waggish merchant’s son is afflicted with Pott’s
Disease (spinal tuberculosis). Soon after his arrival, the rather dubious Dr.
Ceafalan will slap a restrictive body cast on Emanuel. Generally, he does not
mind, because he was never the outdoorsy type, but it makes his infrequent
attempts at hook-ups rather awkward.
is one of the sanitarium’s rare success stories. Aside from an unobtrusive leg
brace, she is as good as new. However, she keeps returning to the clinic as a
visitor, because the patients have become her only social circle. Emanuel will
do his best to woo her with poetry, standing a better chance than he really
uses static long takes and the boxy Academy aspect ratio to make viewers nearly
as antsy and cabin feverish as the unfortunate patients. Frankly, he is
probably too effective. In general, Scarred
feels like The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
reconceived as a vehicle for David Hyde Pierce. Lucian Teodor Rus’s Emanuel
is just insufferable in his suffering, but Jude does him no favors by
constantly interrupting the drama with super-title extracts from Blecher’s
writings. Presumably, something was lost in the translation, because they
generally have the ring of failed haikus.
question, the most rewarding aspects of Scarred
are the character of Solange and the performance of Romanian documentary
filmmaker Ivana Mladenovic. We pick up hints of her uncertain social position.
We can assume she was once well-to-do, given her former residency in the pricey
sanitarium, but she now works in a clerical position. She is also now single,
since her husband abandoned her during her convalescence. She looks rather
glamorous in spite of it all, but she still shares a kinship with the
plastered-up patients. Mladenovic invests her with tremendous sensitivity, but
also a mostly appealing flirtatiousness.
You probably already suspected it, but Jude
conclusively proves it was a very bad idea to get sick in 1937 Romania.
Occasionally, he has characters drop references to the rise of the Iron Guard
and Romanian fascism, but nobody really seems interested, so it comes across
like a transparent attempt to shoehorn in something properly “serious.” The
result is a decidedly mixed bag, so patrons should make no herculean efforts to
see Scarred Hearts when it screens Wednesday
night (1/18) and Thursday afternoon (1/19) at the Walter Reade, as part of this
Labels: NYJFF '17, Radu Jude, Romanian Cinema