By Claudia Neville Cadwallader
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Police, Adjective

This article is over 13 years, 9 months old
Director: Corneliu Porumboiu; Out now
Issue 351

The trailer to Police, Adjective is full of dialogue and action. It centres itself on the problem of teenage hashish smoking in Romania and is accompanied by an upbeat tune. Much of this seems in direct contrast to the film itself, which is powerful in its bleakness, realism and silence.

There is nothing epic here – the people are ordinary and the film spans just three days. The only big things in the film are the structures and systems within which the characters live and with which they struggle. An incredibly moving piece of art is created out of what is unflinchingly everyday.

Drugs, and the question of legalisation or criminalisation, are a central part of the story. The protagonist, Cristi, is a police officer tailing a boy whose friend and fellow hashish smoker, Alex, has squealed on him as a supplier. Cristi insists that he has nothing on the boy, Victor, after tailing him for eight days, and expresses his conviction that they are going to ruin Victor’s life for nothing. This personal responsibility, and subsequent sense that to allow his superiors to “get him” would be a betrayal, puts Cristi in opposition with his own position as an officer and with his boss.

“You no longer know what you are,” his boss fumes. We suspect this is true. Cristi struggles to come to terms with his role as a tool of someone else’s justice as, alone with his thoughts, he trails the teenagers round Brasov. These long stretches of silence, coupled with long-distance shots of Cristi moving around the city, are agonising and essential. Both viewer and protagonist are reduced to little more than CCTV cameras. The absence of Cristi’s vocalised thoughts becomes a black hole that draws you in and forces you to confront his problem as your own.

The tension between an individual and their society, the questions and conflicts that arise from societal organisation and relations between people both in word and in deed, are brought to a head in the inevitable confrontation between Cristi and his boss.

The intuitive morality Cristi wants to adhere to is individualistic and to his superior represents the anarchy the police exist to suppress. The alternative is the status quo of society in which Cristi is an exile in his own land, speaking a language and living by laws that do not belong to him, which can be changed, or not, without his approval or permission.

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