"Graduation" a social drama defining the term "morally gray"

Graduation 1
“Graduation” film poster. (Photo: IMDb)
AMMAN — "Bacalaureat" or "Graduation" was screened at the 33rd edition of the European film festival (EUFF) on Sunday.اضافة اعلان

The film follows the father, a middle-aged doctor named Romeo, attempting to secure the future for his daughter Eliza by taking extreme measures to ensure she attends a British University. "Graduation" seeks to push the question of good intentions and realistic outcomes and present the societal conflicts in Romanian culture.

The film was directed by Romanian director Christian Mungiu, who is known as one of the pioneers of contemporary Roman cinema.

Mungiu is known for how he deals with reality in unconventional forms. He emphasizes the importance of subtle performance and details to extract the meaning from the scene. He established strict control of the portrayal of dramatic scenes to remain governed, never allowing the film to deviate towards uncalculated exaggeration or escalation when presenting emotions.

Instead, Mungiu relies on quiet and calculated performances when filming. He aims to present dialogs that reveal the truth about a character's economic standing, social environment, and personality. In addition, through specific filming techniques, the use of lighting to cast shadows in certain scenes, he can present characters as isolated, even if they are physically together, which increases the complexity of characters for viewers.

Spoiler Warning

Mutual services in a gloomy circumstance

The atmosphere of the movie is depressing and isolating.

To begin, we are introduced to a doctor and professor teaching medicine, Romeo, who is supposedly upper-middle-class. He lives with his wife, Magda, in an apartment similar to all the ones surrounding him, an ugly gray building that reflects the nature of what is known as "socialist architecture".

The architecture is integral to the setting as the camera shows the houses as if they were going through a large prison, where everything is identical.

"Graduation" seeks to push the question of good intentions and realistic outcomes and present the societal conflicts in Romanian culture. (Photo: IMDb)

Romeo takes his daughter, Eliza, to school and stops to see his mistress Sandra, a divorcee with a child and a teacher at Eliza’s school. However, a phone call from Romeo's wife makes him rush to the hospital.

Eliza was sexually assaulted before she reached her school. Due to the assault, her wrist is broken, and she is emotionally unwell.

Eliza, faced with this traumatic event, is struggling to finish her final examinations, which would ensure her scholarship at the British University to study psychology. Thus, what was previously a formality suddenly becomes uncertain.

Romeo and his wife Magda had previously left Romania in 1991. Eventually, they returned with hopes of being there to help Romania escape its failed communist past and move into a modern future. His return is a decision that he deeply regrets, and now his only hopes are in his daughter, and this is where the story begins, with a dismal and challenging circumstance leaving the father with little choice.

To ensure Eliza’s grades are unharmed and her scholarship is secured, Romeo consults the chief investigator in private, and they come to an arrangement where Romeo will expedite a corrupt government official's liver transplant by placing him on top of the list, in exchange for Eliza’s grades being changed. Even though unsure of his actions, Romeo goes on with this plan to try and secure Eliza’s future.

This chain of "mutual services" among people in positions of power didn't necessarily harm anyone, but it certainly benefits some at the expense of others.

This ring of corruption provides an insight into the larger the network in the country.

Morally gray characters

The complications in the film present a moral dilemma in which Mungiu executes phenomenally. He gives the situation without jumping to conclusions about his character's personality, avoiding the good versus evil trope that we are used to seeing in movies. Instead, we are faced with morally gray characters, forcing us to question the impacts of the character's actions while weighing in their intentions, creating a dichotomy both frustrating and essential to experience.

Romeo's wife, who discovers his relationship with Sandra, insists on evicting him from their home but still understands his desire for Eliza to take her finals, which she previously refused. Romeo, who is on a mission to ensure Eliza's future, but is unwilling to accept reality, accepts Magda's punishment. Finally, Eliza does not accept or reject her father's efforts to ensure her spot, and ends up not knowing if she will pursue her university plans. All these dilemmas are presented in ways where viewers are forced to analyze the characters' morality before casting a right or wrong judgment.

The camera that hides more than it detects

While the camera seeks to present a visual representation of the story of Eliza and her father's intense need to ensure her success, it allows viewers to draw most of the conclusions.

A middle-aged doctor named Romeo, attempts to secure the future for his daughter Eliza by taking extreme measures to ensure she attends a British University. (Photo: IMDb)

The film is set up is not designed to show us the intricate details of what or why the events unfolded. Conventional definitions of right and wrong, expectations, and traditional resolutions are thrown out in this movie.

This Mungiu film, an excellent representation of Faustian cinema, where characters sell their soul to the devil or sacrifice their values in the literal and metaphorical sense to achieve material gain or power. Mungiu presents this Faustian dilemma with bizarre and almost logical settlements that the characters themselves feel obliged to take but leave viewers with a sense of questioning.

Mungiu encourages viewers to appreciate the realism of the situation, and he invites viewers to question and wonder, under what circumstance would they bend their ideal of morality to do what they think is right or for the sake of their loved ones.

As much as Mungiu's film asks questions about fatherhood, role models, and the culture of corruption rooted in Roman society, it also presents the relativism of morality, actions, and behavior.

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