This year’s winner of the Golden Bear has been given the German distribution title of “Mutter und Sohn”, invoking shades of Freudian psychobabble that do only partial justice to Calin Peter Netzer’s third feature.
The English title, Child’s Pose, comes closer to the director’s interest in a more recognisable phenomenon: the arrested development of young Romanians whose affluent parents came of age under Ceauşescu and now mimic state control mechanisms as they fail to release their children into independence.
Barbu (Dumitrache) has inadvertently killed a child from a less privileged background whilst overtaking on the motorway. Barbu is pushing 30, married, troubled and impatient with his force-of-nature mother Cornelia (Gheorghiu), an architect who uses every opportunity to insinuate herself into his life, organising his defence with a barrage of bribery and string-pulling as she coerces her son into submitting to her strategies.
Filmed almost entirely as a series of closed-space encounters, both leads and a solid support cast recreate the social inertia that marks other Romanian New Wave films, culminating in a brilliantly conceived confrontation with the victim’s family that left Berlinale audiences reeling in a force field of inter-class manipulation and personal despair: social realism at its best.
Mutter und Sohn (Pozitia Copilului) | Directed by Calin Peter Netzer (Romania 2013) with Luminita Gheorghiu, Bogdan Dumitrache. Starts May 23
Originally published in issue #116, May 2013.