A man who founds his second family is brutally brought back to his first, with all the guilt and anguish that it entails, when his teenage son goes missing on a mountain hike in Daniel Sandu’s second feature film The father who moves the mountains, produced by Cristian Mungiu. An adventure film that fits into the modern tradition of Romanian dramatic cinema, it should appeal to a wider audience than pure arthouse fans. His daring story about an aging man of action confronted with a mountain disaster and plunging headlong into a dangerous rescue operation should appeal to adventure seekers, aided by the initially breathless pace (which, however, was greatly slowed down by the after). The Romanian-Swedish co-production is presented in competition at the Shanghai Film Festival.
Sandu’s talent was recognized in his multiple award-winning debut feature in 2017 A step behind the seraphim, who explored the poignant experiences of a young priest in an Orthodox religious seminary. In The father who moves the mountains, the emphasis is again on the internal conflicts of the fully drawn dramatic characters. Mircea Jianu (Adrian Titieni) is a retired intelligence officer who still commands his trusty NCO Laurentiu (Virgil Aioanei) like a dog. The opening scenes show him shopping for wallpaper with his young, attractive and heavily pregnant second wife / companion, Alina (Judith State). But when he learns that Cosmin, the son he had with his first wife Paula (Elena Purea), got lost in the dreaded Bucegi mountains in winter, he abandons any pretext of domesticity and rushes to the scene. .
The father who moves the mountains
The bottom line
A rugged domestic adventure.
The first part of the story describes how Mircea makes his way through the rescue operations led by local pro Cristian (Valeriu Andriuta), who leads his team of experienced mountaineers with skill and protocol – and to no avail. At that point, Cosmin and his girlfriend have been missing for four days, and hope of finding them alive fades.
It was only when Mircea appealed for a big illegal favor from the Romanian intelligence services that a turning point was reached. Led by the serious Major Filip (Tudor Smoleanu), they arrive like the cavalry with tents, electronic equipment, helicopters, trained men and a skill that makes success seem as inevitable as in any actor. Hollywood. Their military radar screens may appear rudimentary compared to most televisions today, but they give Mircea, Paula and the public reassurance. You can already imagine the emotional embrace between father and son.
Then, almost imperceptibly, the story changes course, from a simple rescue drama to an inner journey testing the courage and determination of everyone involved. Mircea’s efforts to find her son call into question her own motives. Guilt? Obsession? Ego? Stage actor Titieni (who played memorable fathers in conflict in Calin’s film Peter Netzer Child pose and in Mungiu’s own Graduation) creates a portrayal of compulsion that is at times almost monstrous, challenging our conventional ideas about paternal ties and their outward moral limits, to the harsh end.
Sandu runs a great supporting cast whose views change over time and give everyone a moment of truth, like Purea’s cruel and almost flippant accusation that his son’s girlfriend killed him in l ‘encouraging to go to the mountains. The fact that she is saying this very calmly to the girl’s distraught mother is appalling. No apologies offered – although later she is surprisingly lenient with her ex and his outraged behavior.
Filming took place over three winters as the crew waited for blizzards and avalanches. Tudor Vladimir Panduru, who was the director of photography on Graduation, captures some dazzling shots of the Carpathian mountain range, using the ubiquitous snow to whitewash Mircea’s surroundings as it travels inland. The pace of the film, however, seems a little tense and jerky, as the story changes mood several times.