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Wednesday, Jan 20 2016

You may say there's a lack of civility in today's world — and you'd be right if you did. But according to Radu Jude's violent, profane, and frequently hilarious Aferim!, Trump-owned 2016 ain't got nothing on 1835 Wallachia, when people said what they felt and not a single fuck was given. Blustery constable Constandin (Teodor Corban) and his mellower son Ionita (Mihai Comanoiu) are tasked with finding and returning escaped gypsy slave Carfin (Cuzin Toma) to the vase-headed nobleman whose wife he allegedly seduced. ("Vase-headed" means he wears a vase on his head. There's really no other way to describe it.) Shot in glorious black-and-white, Aferim! is an episodic journey in which Constadin and Ionita — no saints themselves — meet horrible people of every stripe that were likely to be found in those days, all of whom hate the other stripes. One highlight is a virtuoso speech by a Catholic priest, listing off what's wrong with every single ethnicity (with Jewish people getting a special mention for their Christ-killing, naturally). The specific theme of Romania's history of enslaving gypsies might be lost on American audiences, but they'll certainly identify with the portrait of a bleak world in which the rich can do whatever they want and nobody can get along. Maybe 2016 America isn't so different after all.

About The Author

Sherilyn Connelly


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