Scarred Hearts Screen 9 articles

Scarred Hearts


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  • The filmmaker's skill for the visual and the corporeal can't mask the sense of slight clumsiness that mars the opening half of this nearly two-and-half hour film. Some lengthier shots overstay their welcome while others are cut gracelessly short... It's only in the third act that Scarred Hearts begins to soar, as the frames become emptier, the editing flows easier, and the two Emanuels inexorably converge, the pains of the body finally in quiet, affecting harmony with the despair of the mind.

  • Because of its vignette-based structure, the film never coalesces into a single, engaging narrative, but it’s rich with wonderful moments, from the slapstick of Emanuel’s attempts to have sex in a hospital bed to the chaotic sequence in which the entire ward gets drunk together.

  • Some really wonderful scenes and characters - the songs and political discussions in the ward, the young man's love of commercial jingles, the jocular doctor taking a syringe out of the screaming patient ("Look, my friend! Pus!") - interspersed with Magic Mountain ambience and the literary hero's mournful philosophy; but the length defeats it, and the static camera (as befits our bedridden hero) gets a bit exhausting.

  • A moving adaptation of writer M. Blecher’s semiautobiographical novel written about the latter’s struggle with bone tuberculosis towards the end of his short life.

  • A work of stunning maturity that uses the by now classic trappings of the Romanian New Wave to startling, distancing effect, it captures the sense of a world on the verge of ending through the life-affirming struggles of the young men and women stuck inside a decaying hospital, powerless to stop either their own decay or the world’s. Scarred Hearts carries the apocalyptic whiff of Fellini’s And the Ship Sails On or Visconti’s Death in Venice.

  • Despite its bleak theme, the film brims with anarchic life, and contains the festival’s funniest sex scene, as two plaster-enclosed patients’ attempt at coitus ends with our hero wheeled off screaming in agony. “Do drop by again!” calls out his inamorata. Marius Panduru’s Academy-ratio photography, each scene staged in mainly fixed tableaux, makes the film as memorable formally as it is dramatically.

  • A double outsider – both disabled and Jewish – Manu is stuck with people he comes to like even as they simultaneously deny being anti-Semites and praise Hitler. It is a degenerating political world only apparently outside the sanatorium walls, underscoring the precarious balance that Jude manages to strike throughout this impressive achievement.

  • This fanatically detailed, intellectually furious drama, set in 1937, in a Romanian seaside sanitarium, catches a young Jewish writer in the jaws of disease and of Fascism... The director, Radu Jude, unfolds the horrific treatment, involving long needles, tight wraps, and a full-body cast, with an unflinching and fascinated specificity that contrasts with the teeming theatrical tableaux in which he films life in the lavish facility.

  • Emmanuel's spirit never subsides even when his health continues to decline... “Live so that death may never take you by surprise,” he says, quoting Marcus Aurelius with defiant passion. While Scarred Hearts willfully embraces these sentiments, it also respects the reality of extended suffering, and the profound affect it can have on an individual mind and the nation at large. The crushing last scene ends with a quote that also evokes the mission of Locarno in Los Angeles itself: “Be brave.”

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