'Police, adjective': The Wrong Arm of the Law
By Jim Ridley
on Fri, Jan 29, 2010 at 11:56 AM
The prize-winning Romanian comedy-drama Police, adjective opens today at The Belcourt. From Jason Shawhan's review in this week's Scene:
During the regime of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu, every Romanian typewriter had to be registered with the state so that every irregularity of alignment or letter could allow for an easier means of tracing "seditious" literature back to its source. Suffice to say, Romania has had a contentious relationship with words for some time. Corneliu Porumboiu's Police, Adjective is a film that concerns itself with language -- not so much with the expansive vision of Derek Jarman's Wittgenstein or the apocalyptic genius of last year's too-little-seen Pontypool, but in the manner of a teacher aiming to drill rhetorical methods into someone's head.
That's the approach taken by Anghelache (Vlad Ivanov), the police chief for the Romanian town of Vaslui, who sets the ways and means by which his team operates. The young inspector Cristi (Dragos Bucur) tails a youth involved in smoking pot with a few associates. Cristi thinks it's a nothing offense, but the higher-ups want results. Not wanting to ruin the kid's life, Cristi must maintain two simultaneous operations -- reporting the suspect's behavior, while trying to shield him from the wrath of their sting operation.
If this were an American procedural, the rogue cop would save the day and the chief would get taken down a notch. But here we have a different kind of animal. Coming out of the fall of communism and the overthrow of the Ceausescu regime, we instead have an environment where the willfulness of the individual can impede any action, and a judgment call from one step higher in the process can derail a life for seven years.