One-Floor-BelowApril 10, 2016

Romania, Sweden, France, Germany

Director: Radu Muntean
Cast: Ionut Bora, Liviu Cheloiu, Calin Chirila
Runtime: 93 minutes
Language: Romanian with English subtitles
Rating: 14A

Seville European Film Festival: Best Actor, Best Screenplay; National Society of Film Critics: Special Citation. Two other award wins, three nominations.

“The film takes a character who would be merely incidental in a more conventional film and uses him to construct a poignant meditation on responsibility, guilt and community.” – Leslie Felperin, Hollywood Reporter

Fans of the Romanian New Wave know that, paradoxically, the less that happens on screen, the more that goes on in the story.

By that measure, One Floor Below is a busy film indeed. We meet Sandhu Patrascu (Teodor Corban), dog-owner, father and co-owner (with his wife) of a business that deals in car registrations.

One day, Sandhu bumps into a neighbour, Vali (Iulian Postelnicu), who he just heard fighting with a woman in her apartment. The next day, the woman’s been bumped off. Or maybe it was just an accident?

The police come round to ask some routine questions, and Sandhu answers them routinely enough – except that he neglects to mention the fight, or Vali. The cop presses mildly: “Anything that bears mentioning?” Nope.

From this point on, One Floor Below turns into a simmering stew. Vali starts hanging around Sandhu’s apartment, helping his son set up a computer and then asking Sandhu to help him change the registration on his car. Sandhu agrees, but becomes more edgy as time passes. Sandhu is increasingly apprehensive as Sandhu ingratiates himself with his family.

Director Muntean challenges audience expectations in this slow-burn thriller. Here’s a death where the facts don’t quite add up, and damned if Muntean is going to make them do so.

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