The Second Game Screen 12 articles

The Second Game


The Second Game Poster
  • The Second Game is an undoubtedly intelligent combination of structural aesthetics and media archeology. Porumboiu Sr. remarks that sports are meant to be "consumable," not lasting like a film or a work of art, but his son's exercise in historical excavation belies this pronouncement. Despite the nobility of this effort, I confess that The Second Game was an absolute slog to actually watch... Great idea, diminishing rewards.

  • Amusing to a point, the concept runs out of steam as Papa Porumboiu saves his most interesting observations for the first half; as the match sputters to a goalless conclusion, so, too, in an admittedly self-aware way, does the film... [Porumboiu's point may be that] the game itself practically disappears before our eyes, becoming less memorable, or even definable, than the act of watching it.

  • As the match continues, our two narrators get more and more into the game, sucked into its mesmerizing rhythm, and it's difficult not to join them. At times, the pleasure of the film simply comes from watching the skill of the players, and watching the match unfold like any other televised sports event, but there is also a hypnotic poetry to the blurred bodies and the distorted gestures and colors within the frame.

  • In the first instance, we have an absolute minimalism here, whereby it's easy to overlook the fact that we're watching images recorded with a contemporary digital camera, so transparent is the gaze of Porumboiu's own tripod-fixed camera as it watches the television set on which the soccer game unfolds. In the second instance, Porumboiu uses this otherwise innocuous match—which, after all, ends in a nil-nil draw—as a primary historical artifact...

  • Best of all is the snow. Adrian admits that, had he known it’d soon be coming down so fast and thick, he’d have postponed the game. The players press on, slipping and sliding, but they are slowed, making for a game that, for all the political tension, won’t go down in history of one of Europe’s most exciting matches. But the snow… on VHS. Beautiful.

  • Beyond this literal commentary on the events we're seeing, Porumboiu Jr offers a beautifully nuanced portrait of the relationship he has with his mildly-cantankerous, plain-speaking father. Corneliu opines that there's a certain poetry how the figures move on this snow-covered pitch, to which his father responds abruptly, "There is no poetry here."

  • Offering a soccer match as a metaphor for a fallen system that transformed sports into nationalistic pageantry of pride and honor, while secretly rigging games—and, politics—behind its citizens' backs, The Second Game turns an ordinary, nostalgic gesture into a self-reflexive time capsule.

  • In some respects, The Second Game makes a gamble similar to 12:08, which takes place entirely within the space of a televised local talk show. In both films, Porumboiu’s method is to take a cultural artifact of temporary value and see if, drained of its relevance, it can be made to let slip any accidental truths about its particular time and place...

  • The revelation of the political conflicts hidden behind the on-field struggle, the insights into the players’ personalities, and the exposition of the referee’s state of mind and plan of action as he deploys his power in the interest of a well-ordered microcosm give the game the amplitude and the depth of a fictional work, and offer allegorical implications for a society that was on the verge of drastic change.

  • A film without direction, acting, or editing in the traditional senses, The Second Game somehow manages to expose the grotesque and surreal aspects of Romanian Communism on the eve of its demise... Porumboiu questions his role as a filmmaker in a movie where all the action has already taken place and there is no re-writing to change its course. He proves himself once again to be a most refined explorer of that semi-fictional realm we call history.

  • What reads as numbingly banal in theory is almost miraculous in execution. The Second Game proceeds like an audio/visual memoir, collapsing time, technologies, and testimony while positioning itself as a historical rejoinder to a regime whose impact was felt in corners far beyond cultural institutions. In both its political and sociological inquisitiveness, then, the film represents the most direct indictment of the administration since The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceaușescu (2010).

  • Adrian repeatedly declares that soccer is only about the moment, and that there’s no use in watching an old match—no excitement, no surprises. For Corneliu, the absence of any obvious entertainment value in the material creates an opportunity to imagine something that might be hidden or nascent in the images. The past may be unchangeable, but its traces invite interpretation.

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