Mimi Brănescu, Judith State, Bogdan Dumitrache,
A movie about big themes set in a small space, master Romanian director Cristi Puiu’s latest film takes place primarily in a three-bedroom flat where various and numerous relations wait (and wait) for the local priest to deliver last rites to the family patriarch. As the film begins, a married couple in a car argue about what kind of dress their daughter needs for a play she’s in. Near Sieranevada’s end, this same husband and wife will again have a heated conversation in the same car, but the stakes will be much higher. As he did with The Death of Mr. Lazarescu and Aurora, Puiu builds tension through an accretion of details that seem minor at first, but gain in importance and resonance as the drama proceeds. As family members amble in and out of the apartment, conversations and arguments about politics, 9/11 conspiracy theories, adultery, and the proper respect to be paid to the dead man ensue. Puiu uses these discussions to explore, among other matters, the psychic cost when people know they’re being lied to but pretend otherwise. Lest this seem overly dark or dire, the film is leavened with the director's trademark black humor, from the cheery pop songs that play in the background to the household's Buñuelian predicament of not being able to eat until the endlessly delayed arrival of the man of God. Death may wait for no man, but in Sieranevada everyone must wait to dine.