One Floor Below Screen 16 articles

One Floor Below

2015

One Floor Below Poster
  • Imagine a Romanian Rear Window in which the Jimmy Stewart figure has zero desire to see justice served, and the Raymond Burr figure evidently yearns to get caught. Just when I thought I had One Floor Below figured out, however, it ended on a baffling note involving Sandu’s teenage son, who sleepwalks while muttering what sounds like random gibberish. Muntean surely had a reason for making that the film’s final impression, but I’m damned if I know yet what it is.

  • One Floor Below trades in technophobia and historically ingrained paranoia, but struggles to articulate itself past the point of the merely suggestive. Still, its middle stretch—in which Vali begins maneuvering his way into Patrascu’s life—is tense, and benefits significantly from Muntean’s knack for careful long takes and off-screen sound, those two standbys of the somehow-still-sort-of-ongoing Romanian New Wave.

  • What’s missing here is what’s absent from Muntean’s previous film, the 2010 adultery mystery Tuesday, After Christmas: the connective tissue to prevent you from feeling that you missed something.

  • One Floor Below is notably without the dourness or morbid, plodding detail of some of the more tedious films grouped under the description of the "Romanian New Wave." Indeed, it's not dissimilar to yesterday's Hirokazu Kore-eda's Our Little Sister in its even-handed approach to everyday interactions and its casual but precise manner in staging drama and tension unobtrusively but still with an edge. This seems, however, not only its main thrust but perhaps its only one.

  • Class concerns, racism, and the weight of potential past debts linger in the air, but Muntean seems more concerned with the mystery of human behavior than the rationale behind it, which makes for an exasperating but stirring portrait of illogic itself.

  • Radu Muntean’s stewing One Floor Below uses a single wordless exchange to set up a narrative founded on momentary shifts in tension. Evoking Hitchcock in its gripping sense of stretched temporality and simmering menace, the film contemplates how small escalations in aggression lead to life-long patterns of indecision.

  • Offscreen spaces, a Romanian specialty, are as powerful as ever, not least the secrets in the hero's head; we're never sure what kind of stake he might've had in the dead girl to begin with.

  • It always feels as if something will burst onto the scene from just outside (or one floor below) the shot. At the heart of this minimalist thriller lie some serious questions about the nature of happiness--namely, is it nothing more than the avoidance or denial of unhappiness? Muntean doesn't offer easy answers, nor does he condescend to his characters. Sandu's bliss, however questionable, never seems like the product of mere ignorance.

  • By stretching those moments in time, Muntean not only builds palpable tension, but also shows the length his characters are willing to go in order to avoid confrontation with the truth and maintain illusion of order in their lives (this very delusion may be, in fact, his favorite subject). As I was watching the film, I admired how subtle it is in portraying a man whose sense of social belonging and responsibility has been destroyed almost totally by the authoritarian political system he grew up in.

  • Dramatic irony between the two men creates a quietly simmering source of intrigue that – again – contrasts with nerve-jangling Haneke-esque nastiness... Inside the movies, deaths usually mean something. By not playing into this trope of fiction, Muntean leaves us with uncomfortable questions to ponder.

  • More is suggested outside of the frame than in what’s shown on screen. It’s a credit to Muntean’s skills that he’s continued to sculpt his films down their most essential aesthetic elements while his thematic interests have only intensified. One Floor Below is a film that lingers long after it’s ended, and one that would appear capable of yielding different, perhaps even more substantial rewards on a second viewing.

  • Vali Dima (Julienne Postelnicu), the husband from the floor below, begins to infiltrate Patrascu’s life in small ways, wanting to repay his silence. How Patrascu deals with this is the poignant heart of a film of exact mood and intense, downplayed expression that keeps up the high standard of Romanian social realism as if it were a matter of course.

  • Radu Muntean’s latest suggests that we needn’t descend very far down to examine a collective consciousness: One Floor Below is deep enough to yield a serious moral dilemma... This is an aesthetically minimalistic, meticulously constructed drama.

  • Muntean's sense of everyday rhythms is uncanny; every detail seems to be its own mini-story, from the way our hero cups water in his hands for his dog to drink in the park to the way his face becomes immobile after every answer when he's lying to the cops (or being economical with the truth).

  • The subtle suspense builds as Patrascu and Vali test each other to see who will crack first. One Floor Below is a slow-burn character study that benefits greatly from Muntean’s naturalist style.

  • Of all of the great filmmakers who formed the Romanian New Wave, Muntean is perhaps my favorite. He has found an understated, seemingly effortless technique for combining the personal and the political in a way that illuminates both... With One Floor Below, we gain insight into the effects of the police state on the Romanian people and the still-yawning gulf of misunderstanding that lingers.

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