Synopsis: One of the central figures to emerge from the cinema of the Romanian New Wave, director Radu Muntean has created in TUESDAY, AFTER CHRISTMAS a tense, emotionally resonant drama about a middle-aged man caught between his commitment to his family and his affair with a younger woman. Paul and Adriana (played by Mimi Branescu and Mirela Oprisor, who also happen to be a couple in real life) are the happily married couple whose ten-year marriage is rocked when Paul falls into an illicit affair with his daughter’s sexy dentist. Through beautifully calibrated performances and scorchingly intense long takes, the drama unfolds as Paul is forced to choose between the easy rapport and stability of his family life and the uncertainty and excitement of a relationship with a much younger woman.
eyelights: its realistic portrayal.
eyesores: its realistic portrayal.
“You’re the biggest disappointment of my life.”
‘Marţi, după Crăciun’ is a 2010 Romanian film that I stumbled upon by chance, while looking for an extra DVD to buy on Kino’s website in order to qualify for free shipping. I got pulled in by its cover, depicting a couple lying in bed, naked. Yeah, I’m shallow that way. Plus which it got free shipping for the other titles I really wanted. Yay!
Known in North America as ‘Tuesday, After Christmas’, the award-winning picture is set in Bucharest a few days before Christmas and follows Paul as he struggles with his devotion to his family and his love for Raluca, his young lover. Torn between two worlds, he’s faced with a critical decision on Christmas eve, changing all of their lives.
The picture is slow and dry, being a sort of slice-of-life look at Paul’s relationships with his wife, Adriana, his daughter, Mara, his parents, Raluca, and Raluca’s mother. It’s very much dialogue-based, with most of the moments revolving around real-world small-talk, confrontation and intense negotiations. It doesn’t get more real than this.
The performances are all rock solid, though Mimi Brănescu plays Paul a bit shell-shocked, as though he’s unable to openly confront his own feelings. Even when he’s faced with opposition from Raluca or Adriana, he mostly remains slightly detached, dispassionate. It’s really quite hard to feel the love that he expresses for either of his partners.
This makes for a motion picture that can be quite heavy at times, though not oppressively so. It’s akin to being in an environment that has dense air, making it difficult but not impossible to breathe. You’re waiting for that moment when you can draw a free breath of fresh air. Not that ‘Marţi, după Crăciun’ ever lightens up enough to allow this.
But what makes the picture worth seeing is that director and co-writer Radu Muntean put us in the room with these characters, giving us many long takes with no cuts whatsoever. It walks that fine line between cinema and theatre, allowing the actors to become the driving force of those scenes. It’s no wonder that rehearsals took three weeks.
Probably the best scene is towards the end, when Paul finally tells Adriana. This 17-minutes long sequence features a 10-minute take of Adriana processing the disintegration of her marriage and going through the various stages of grief – all the while quizzing Paul on his affair and making demands. It’s a beautifully-realized sequence.
One of many.
Still, it’s not to say that ‘Marţi, după Crăciun’ is a highly-enjoyable film. Watching a family get torn apart by an affair is never a good time. But the picture is nonetheless a satisfying one, anchored as it is by natural dialogues, realistic situations, solid performances and crafty direction. It’s not a movie I’d rewatch often, but it’s worth seeing.
Date of viewing: November 20, 2016