QUICK SNAP: LIVE FROM SAN SEBASTIAN
Irina (Ioana Chitu) is aged just 22. She lives with her large dysfunctional family in a guest house somewhere in rural Romania. The tourists are never to be seen. Instead Irina’s family generates all the noise and commotion. Heated arguments are the currency, verbal abuse is rife and violence is more than habitual. We consistently see the males – young and old – manipulate and humiliate the women of all generations.
Irina’s sister Victoria (Ilinca Neacsu) is the only woman overtly attempting to challenge the patriarchy. She is loud and unabashedly promiscuous, a clear affront to her relatives. Both women dream of moving to Bucharest or perhaps London in order to work or study, however their elders find novel ways of destroying their plans. and shattering their dreams. An older woman in black (presumably their widowed grandmother) tells Irina there’s no point in being an intellectual, and that a university degree serves no purpose. She should make food instead.
Their chain-smoking cousin Liviu (Mircea Postelnicu), the family’s alpha-male, is the one to take matters into his own hands. He runs a very questionable trade, and employs a very hesitant Irina to assist him with the accounts. He has a history of violence: he battered Irina 15 years earlier when she was aged just seven. The family avoids the thorny topic, and complacence prevails. Subtle gestures of emancipation are met with fierce resistance.
One evening, a stranger violates a very drunk Irina, robbing her of her literal virginity. She wakes up the next day with blood on her genitals. She seeks her rapist, but instead of demanding justice, she asks for a kiss and a no-strings relationship. Irina is no feminist. She does not perceive her body as a weapon for self-affirmation, but instead as a commodity that can be traded in exchange for affection.
Chitu delivers a quietly moving and very convincing performance as a woman split between the desire to start a new life and the relative comfort of her oppressed existence. Should she seek to break away from the patriarchy, or is it ok to play by the old-fashioned rule book? At one point Liviu challenges his cousin: “Why run away? You can just leave”, thereby highlighting the paradox of freedom. James Baldwin once wrote: “Freedom is not something that anybody can be given”. Is Irina is one such person who does not value freedom? Is she satisfied with her oppressed status?
Blue Moon was made on shoestring budget of just €520,000, and without support from the Romanian National Film Centre. It just premiered at the 69th San Sebastian International Film Festival, in the event’s Official Competition. An honourable entry, however with little chances of snatching the event’s top prize, the Golden Shell.