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IMACULATE (2021, RUM) – 6.5/10

As their candidate for the Oscar, the Romanians highlighted this arty drama, which was premiered at the Venice festival, where it won three awards, among which it brought co-directors Monica Stan and George Chiper the award for the best debut film. Stan is also the screenwriter of the film “Bezgriješna”, which she partly designed based on her own experiences from her youth. And the young days didn’t exactly go well for the main protagonist, 18-year-old Daria (Ana Dumitrasca), whose mother sent her to a rehabilitation clinic because this once promising and excellent high school graduate became addicted to heroin. Daria was pulled over by her much older boyfriend, a dealer who has since been sentenced to four years in prison.

In the first scene, we also meet Daria during an interview while she is being admitted to the clinic, and it is immediately clear to us that she is a naive and inexperienced girl, completely unprepared for what awaits her. We soon get to know the rest of the team, among which there are some dangerous characters, and there is also a large Roma Spartac who will initially act protectively towards Daria, but all this seems quite suspicious to the viewer from the beginning. Not for that innocent and gullible girl who believes in the goodness and honesty of people who have found themselves in the same place as her, and the dynamics of the relationship between the patients will be disrupted when Costea, a young man who was in prison with Daria’s boyfriend, appears there.

They filmed Stan and Chipera, who is also a cinematographer, a rather unusual artistic drama that stands out not only with the vertical 4:3 format, unusual framing with a mostly static camera that often captures close-ups and details such as the face or hands of the protagonist. “Imaculat” seems both tender and repulsive at the same time, because from the beginning it is clear to us that Daria does not realize that she has arrived among people who certainly do not wish her well. It may seem at first that they all took her as a kind of sweetheart because she is the youngest there and they treat her protectively, but it is clear to the viewer from the beginning that this is not a company for building relationships and closeness.

These are people whose personalities and characters have obviously been completely destroyed by heroin and whose behavior turns from gentle to aggressive, possessive and creepy in the blink of an eye. At one point, Spartacus wants to show his affection to Daria by bringing her chocolate, but this quickly turns into a creepy and shocking scene because he pelts her with chocolate until she eats two kilos and vomits. It is a film that stylistically and thematically fits into the new Romanian film and it seems somehow raw and cruel, naturalistic, but shot with style and unusual. The young Romanian actress Ana Dumitrascu is also a strong asset of the film because she really seems so naive, innocent, completely unaware of where and with whom she ended up.