Viorel doesn't have much to say. He negotiates daily life in bleak wintertime Bucharest with dispassion and an obscure anger. But when it becomes apparent he is planning a murder, his stale and predictable world gets recast in a new and mysterious light. Romanian filmmaker Cristi Puiu (The Death of Mr. Lazarescu) destroys all notions of crime as entertainment in this painstakingly realistic anatomy of a murder, delivering a chilling character study of an ordinary person driven to kill. Puiu's post-Communist Bucharest is a city on the edge in a suddenly capitalist country where people dream of self-sufficiency while fearing a deep plunge into poverty. Amid the unstable economy, relationships are fractured. At the heart of Viorel's discontent lie a failed marriage and his increasingly distant relationship with his two daughters. Playing protagonist Viorel himself, Puiu presents an intelligent, literate, and penetrating reinvention of the traditional murder drama. Meanwhile, as in his acclaimed The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (2005), black comedy creeps into unlikely places: Intending to clean and test his gun, Viorel instead weathers a crew of redecorators, a neighboring dysfunctional family and the unannounced intrusion of his own mother and her new partner, a man Viorel despises. A onetime student of classic film noir, Puiu's realist noir subtracts the romance and keeps the doom. The result is an unflinching and haunting investigation of what compels a person to commit the ultimate act.

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