One Floor Below
Directed by Radu Muntean
After being the sole unfortunate witness to a domestic quarrel that ends up in murder, Patrascu finds himself at odds with two very close neighbors: one is the bizarre murderer. The other is his very own conscience.
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★★★½ review by Chad Eberle on Letterboxd
ONE FLOOR BELOW: Just when you thought Romanian "wait for it" non-thrillers couldn't make the wait any longer & the "it" any slighter...
(I liked it.)
★★★★★ review by m8ben on Letterboxd
Sandu ain't a bad guy or a good guy he's just a guy who cares when you point out that he doesn't care
★★★½ review by Keith Watson on Letterboxd
Why does Sandu keep quiet? This question is the real dramatic engine of “One Floor Below” and it lends a sense of suspense to even the blandest scenes of Sandu going about his boring job—he owns a small business helping people sort their vehicle registration (a kind of capitalist update to the stereotype of labyrinthine Soviet bureaucracy?). Eventually, Vali starts showing up unannounced at Sandu’s apartment, seeking out Sandu’s help with his own car registration, which creates another mystery: Why is Vali insinuating himself into the life of the man who suspects him of murder?
Neither of these mysteries gets a clear resolution, and yet it is a testament to the precision and psychological realism of Muntean’s approach that “One Floor Below” remains so compelling even in scenes that seem designed to bore and stupefy. This unexpected balance of tedium and suspense has been one of the most intriguing features of the Romanian New Wave, and “One Floor Below” often recalls the the impenetrable psychology of Cristi Puiu’s “Aurora” and the humdrum work scenes in Corneliu Porumboiu’s “Police, Adjective.” Like Porumboiu and Puiu, Muntean is able to generate a surprising amount of drama out of the simple observation of a man going about his daily life. The bland realism of these directors’ work foregrounds a rich and complicated question: “What is this man thinking?” And the refusal to provide a definitive answer presents an equally slippery question: “Can we ever really know what goes on in another person’s head?”
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★★★★ review by preston on Letterboxd
Muntean's sense of everyday rhythm is uncanny; Romanian movies have a knack (Iran does it too) for people having long, prosaic, oddly compelling conversations where they figure stuff out - but it's also a question of knowing what to look at, and how long to look; every detail seems to be its own little story, from the way our hero cups water in his hands for his dog to drink to the way his face becomes immobile after every answer when he's lying to the cops (or being economical with the truth). The mystery at the heart of the film - why he stays silent, and whether it's because it's "your business" or some more deep-seated guilt (why does he blow up when the guy points out he was eavesdropping?) - eats away at the life on display, one of the various little niggles in the fabric of quotidian reality, swimming like a virus among the work meetings and Champions League football nights and background chorus of government clerks, cops and neighbours. The murder itself is another hidden virus, of course, but also e.g. there's the sleepwalking son - babbling away from an unknown dimension - and stupid tiny mysteries like was the guy really sick, and how did he call if he was? A minor work, aimless by design, but it half-achieves something fascinating, a visual evocation of the gnawing interior weight that weighs down all our lives. Builds to the most realistically messy fist-fight in ages, too.
★★★★ review by JaviOsuna on Letterboxd
Mientras subes las escaleras de tu casa, oyes a la pareja del piso de abajo discutir con fuerza. Él sale, te ve y te vas. Más tarde, esa misma mañana, ella es encontrada muerta en condiciones sospechosas, ¿qué harías?
De esta forma, Radu Muntean inicia lo que será un intenso thriller psicológico, corto y modesto, pero muy potente, sobre todo si se deja reposar. Desbordante de tensión, en el que la empatía con el protagonista se alcanza por el uso perfecto de lo cotidiano en la construcción de la historia: el suspense está en el rellano de tu casa. Si Hitchcock hizo que atacaran a Cary Grant a plena luz del día en un campo de maíz porque defendía que mientras más normal fuera una situación más posibilidades tendría de generar misterio y tensión, Muntean recoge el guante y lleva la situación a la máxima normalidad posible en One Floor Below, con mucha habilidad para evitar caer en lo monótono y aburrido de lo cotidiano.
La culpa, la conciencia, el miedo y la mentira estarán siempre presentes en la actitud de Patrescu (Teodor Corban), que buscará huir del conflicto y recobrar la normalidad de su vida, porque, al fin y al cabo: «ya sabéis lo que se dice, la vida también consiste en estas cosas».
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