Retrospective: Corneliu Porumboiu

Corneliu Porumboiu’s cinema is the turn around a corner. Suspended between two directions, two different moments, his films delve into the sense of suspension: suspension between Causcescu and liberal democracy, between digital video and film, between the anonymity of his national cinema and the popularity of the Romanian New Wave. Porumboiu’s films reveal what is hidden within the banal, everyday utterances and routines of his characters: the silent desire—silently growing like a tumor—for a truly new world. Perhaps more accurately: it’s cinema about being told you’ve turned a corner when you have yet to see the new street.

Born in 1975 in Vaslui, Romania, Corneliu Porumboiu is one of the greatest young voices in European film today. His short films attracted immediate praise at international film festivals, and his debut feature from 2006, 12:08 East of Bucharest, won both the Transilvania Trophy and the Best Romanian Film Award at the Transilvania International Film Festival and the Caméra d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. His following films, Police, Adjective (2009 FIPRESCI Prize, Jury Prize winner of the Cannes Un Certain Regard section), When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism, and The Second Game all continued to receive critical acclaim and help establish Porumboiu as a leading director on the European scene. Finally, his latest film, The Treasure, was selected to the Un Certain Regard section of the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.

Porumboiu’s films are deceptively simple: he begins with a central concept—revolution, conscience, dishonesty, power—and he pushes and twists this singular idea through the mold of his minimalistic form, resulting in original and unexpected works. In his cinema, the mundane conflicts and characters don’t stand in as metaphor for these larger conceits; they simply confound the distinction between personal and societal, magnifying individual conflicts and showing how individual struggles, submerged in the ordinary, bear the markings of universal problems. Bearing humanity, intelligence, and humor at the absurdity of a present that is just a watered-down version of the past, Porumboiu’s oeuvre has the capacity to raise questions about society, film and language through the depiction of the quotidian in a way few filmmakers have before.