Oct 13, 2021
By Kaveh Jalinous
The lean and skillful Romanian thriller, Întregalde, is a suspense-filled and chilling tale about the fear of abandonment.
The minimalist film starts with three humanitarians who deliver aid kits to populations in remote areas of Romania. On one of their missions, they meet an old man who asks them for a lift to his jobsite at a nearby sawmill. Shortly into their drive, the old man points them in the direction of an unpaved trail, claiming it is the only route to the sawmill. They follow his directions reluctantly and the intense muddy condition of the trail causes their car to stall. The old man leaves them stranded in the middle of nowhere with no cell reception or shelter. As night falls, bringing winter chill with it, the three have to figure out what to do.
As they try, and fail, to start their car, and when they decide to split up to look for help, the desperation of their situation truly begins to take hold. Not much is scarier than the fear of being alone, stuck in a place where no one can hear you, no one can help you and no one would even think to look for you. Director Radu Muntean’s choice to let this nightmare unfurl slowly is the only effective way to tell this story.
Întregalde deceptively takes the form, both narratively and structurally, of the stereotypical suspense thriller. Muntean does an excellent job of manufacturing a strange and unsettling aura that permeates throughout the entire film, even in the moments where nothing significant is happening. The film tricks viewers into believing the plot is progressing one way, when in reality, it is headed in a much different direction. This is partly attributable to the film’s story, but most of the credit goes to how Întregalde methodically and carefully unravels.
Muntean takes his time moving from scene to scene, focusing mainly on all of the characters’ inner battles and frustrations. By letting viewers see how the characters react to their situations in real time, the film reinforces its message of abandonment.
The film isn’t without its issues. While the story’s directionless nature initially feels interesting and unique, as the film moves forward, it starts feeling tiring and repetitive. The film also spends so much time building its plot only for it to fall completely flat in the final act. A tonal switch this late doesn’t do the story any favors, and makes the conclusion feel neither warranted nor believable. Even with these setbacks, Întregalde’s creative approach to its central premise and Muntean’s bold directorial style is enough to elevate the film above a number of its thriller contemporaries. (www.filmlinc.org/nyff2021/films/intregalde/)
Author rating: 6/10
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