Police, Adjective: Reflection

Corneliu Porumboiu’s 2009 Romanian movie is one of the slowest I have ever seen. All done on purpose though and well worth sitting back and sticking with it.

A police officer is asked to follow a young man suspected of dealing drugs (marijuana). When the police officer claims his conscience won’t let him arrest the student he is forced to endure a lecture by his police chief.

This movie is a fascinating look at how a person’s identity can get lost between personal needs and the role he personifies. Dragos Bucur plays Cristi the police officer who spends a lot of time alone, out of sync with his colleagues and his wife. He eats alone, smokes alone, declines to go to meetings and only interacts occasionally with his wife with their conversations invariably being about the semantics of changes in the Romanian language. Meaning is an ever changing thing and the state has institutions which determine grammar.

The film runs for 114 minutes but it doesn’t feel like it. We watch as Cristi stands outside the student’s home. The camera rests on the police officer for over 30 seconds as he waits to see the police chief. We watch him consume a whole meal and then get a beer out of the fridge. Time takes on a different meaning when waiting is all you can do and it’s not hard to feel like the main character.

Police, Adjective was Romania’s official submission to 82nd Academy Award’s Foreign Language in 2010. It also won the Jury Prize at Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard category, 2009, among strong contenders such as Kynodontas, released under the name Dogtooth in the UK, and Precious.

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