Child's Pose Review

Child's Pose is a rather gripping Romanian film which last year won the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival. Its director Calin Peter Netzer also co-wrote the screenplay on what was his third feature. The plot concerns how a grown man's parents, particularly his mother, deal with the aftermath of an automobile accident in which he killed a child. The seemingly available directions a film of this kind could branch out are pretty easily imaginable, yet Child's Pose somehow resists most all of them. It alters what might seem especially vital in favor of moments and scenes that could be less important but quickly are established as the marrow of the entire ordeal. One of the most gripping points of the entire picture is a conversation between the driver's mother and his longtime girlfriend, somewhat late in the film. We've learned very little about him previously, even when he was on screen. But here, through the details being shared, dimensions emerge and it's fascinating.

Cornelia (played exquisitely by Luminita Gheorghiu) has a strong tendency to be controlling and overbearing, perhaps like many a mother. The underlying aspect of Netzer's film is that she is the one maybe even taking some perverse advantage of the fact that her son, Barbu, killed someone else's child in order to get closer to him. It's a bit of a chore to wrap one's head around but that's essentially what is going on here. The thirtysomething son's reckless action has provided an opportunity for Cornelia to further control him. She involves herself with the police from the start of the ordeal. She instructs him to change his statement about how fast he was going at the time of the accident. She's the one who speaks to the driver Barbu was passing just before the child was hit. And she's the force behind going to see the dead child's family near the end of the film.

Throughout, there's an understated tension constantly at work. It's a stretch to consider the film a thriller but that doesn't negate the mood at times from resembling one. The lack of over the top theatrics is refreshing since this is the exact kind of plot where we'd often see them. Cornelia's flaws emerge more subtly, as does the complicated relationship she has with Barbu. Because she doesn't immediately come across as some kind of witchy beast of a woman, her character's actions never feel inevitable. The dynamic she shares with him is an odd one, and the viewer is left to struggle with getting any kind of strong grasp as to exactly who these two people are or why they've become as they have.

Little moments like Cornelia being called "Controlia" by her husband or her awkward behavior at the victim's family's house speak volumes. There's also this really magnetic scene where she meets with the man Barbu sped up to pass prior to hitting the child in the road. During this encounter she has to cede control to him, and the result is that she kind of doesn't know how to act. She wants to persuade him to change part of his story, presumably with money, but he's incredibly self-assured about the whole thing. Right and wrong never seem to enter the equation. It's simply a matter of self-interest. From a humanist standpoint, it's disturbing to watch, making it basically right at home in modern Romanian cinema.

The other signature idea we see in Child's Pose is that money and power go far in making a situation more favorable to those fortunate enough to possess them. While this is hardly a revelation, the implications remain frustrating to witness. Because Cornelia has a certain stature in society she's able to manipulate various aspects of the legal process involving her son's case. The criticism here belongs perhaps not as strongly on Cornelia as it does the culture of allowing such treatment to occur. It's shown to be pervasive and even expected. The other driver likely meets with Cornelia solely with the expectation of being paid off, and handsomely so. In addition to the specific situations involving Cornelia and Barbu, it's this dive into the more far-reaching culture of corruption that makes Child's Pose especially fascinating to watch.


The Disc

U.S. label Zeitgeist Films brings Child's Pose to DVD. The dual-layered disc presents the film in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, with anamorphic enhancement. The progressive transfer is a strong one, showing no damage and sharp, crisp detail. Colors appear sufficiently warm and true. The film's often jerky, handheld style is reproduced cleanly, with smooth, fluid movement.

Audio is offered in a pair of options. The Romanian language tracks are available in both a 5.1 surround mix and a 2.0 stereo listen. Both are excellent and the choice of which to utilize should depend mainly on one's home system. Dialogue and musical elements come through without incident. The audio range offered here is quite good. There are optional English subtitles.

Special features are somewhat modest but nonetheless reveal some effort having been made. There's a behind the scenes piece (10:56) which is less of a cohesive featurette than mixed footage of the fly-on-the-wall sort. Additionally, a lengthy, completely finished deleted scene (8:28) can be viewed on the disc. Zeitgeist has also included the movie's U.S. theatrical trailer (1:50).


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