In 2005, director Cristi Puiu released The Death of Mr. Lazarescu. The black comedy won a number of high end awards from festivals all over the globe and is now regarded as one of the finest cinematic achievements of recent years. It took him five years to make another film, which came in the shape of Aurora. Although it doesn’t quite have the same comedic or human elements as its predecessor, it is still a fine addition to the Romanian New Wave.
Aurora is the story of Viorel, an everyday, ordinary man played by Puiu himself. As a middle aged, divorced father of two, Viorel finds himself at a cross roads in his life. Uncomfortable at work, lonely at home, Viorel is a detached and paranoid individual. Whether he is discussing a leak with his neighbours or simply shopping, he never quite fits in or adapts to modern life. There is essentially a void and he takes extreme measure to fill it.
A co-worker at the metallurgical factory prepares for him two firing pins for a hunting rifle, which Viorel buys later in the film. Throughout the film we see him carefully stalking several individuals. Their significance isn’t wholly obvious but they come to play a significant part in Viorel’s life. Slowly but surely our protagonist’s life unravels at a startling rate. He’s not Michael Douglas in Falling Down but his descent is equally dramatic.
At three hours long, Aurora does test your patience. However its structure and compelling narrative allows viewers to really contemplate the characters motifs in the more somber scenes. Puiu demonstrates a key understanding of when and when not to unleash a series of images and ideas onto his audience. It is incredibly slow in places and there isn’t too much dialogue to work with but it is worth sticking with the film to marvel at the director’s use of tension to create an entirely anxious experience.
Aurora isn’t all doom and gloom. There are some scenes that could have come straight from a Hollywood thriller. There are odd bits of comedy which are played out by the other people Viorel encounters. Viorel’s stoic personality creates awkward situations with whomever he meets and, whilst each of these moments usually end in different circumstances, some provide some light relief. Others though do leave you questioning the characters moral fibre and the film is constantly toiling with that unsettled mind set.
It is worth bearing in mind that this is a three hour Romanian film. It is slow and inundated with lengthy takes that can go on for a number of minutes. Cold and chilling but with odd sparks of humour, Aurora is an example of a director showing us his many skills and ambitions. Its length may not suit everyone, but for those willing to endure its many paths, the rewards are deeply satisfying. Along with films like Beyond the Hills, Police, Adjective and 4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days, Aurora is another example of why Romania might just be the most exciting film nation in the world right now.