As the 69th edition of the Cannes Film Festival winds to a close on May 22, one of the movies that has made a mark with critics, and hopefully would with the George Miller jury as well, is a charmingly unpretentious work from Romania called Graduation.
Romanian director Cristian Mungiu has reaffirmed that style is unimportant while telling a story in a film, and he does this with admirable excellence in his Palm d’Or competitor, Graduation. Earlier, he had won the Palm for his abortionist tale, 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days, and a director’s trophy for Beyond the Hills.
In Graduation, he examines a universal dilemma of parental anxiety for a child’s welfare. Dr Romeo Adrian (played by Adrian Titieni) is a respectable member of society, who wants the very best for his academically brilliant daughter, Eliza (Maria Dragus) -- which is to send her away from the morally bankrupt and corrupt Romania to England, where she has won a scholarship to study psychology. But she has to pass one graduation test that will see her getting on the plane.
However, on the morning of her examination, she is assaulted outside her school and nearly raped, and the father finds himself being forced to make moral compromises to ensure that Eliza gets her required grades. Graduation is an extraordinarily powerful work where Mungiu’s unassuming helming makes a great impact on the viewer -- a realist, indeed he is, who shuns stylistic adornments and firmly believes that technical tricks do not make a magical movie.
Will Graduation win the coveted Palm d’Or or at least any of the other top prizes?
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering the Cannes Film Festival.)