Have you ever said that you would pay to watch your favorite actor read the dictionary? Well if you happen to be Romanian, now you can!
Not only that – the dictionary happens to be one of the more action-packed sequences of Police-Adjective. Forced to read the definition of “police” after objecting to an assignment, the detective notes that it describes a form of story with drama and suspense. ‘Police, Adjective’ actively rejects that definition of “police drama,” depicting instead the tedious absurdity of a pointless stakeout directed at a few kids smoking hash. When the story threatens to veer into an action scene, the film ends.
The deflation of action and drama seems to be the cause of director Corneliu Porumboiu. His camera spends its time in drawn-out takes of people eating, sitting in a waiting room, or mainly following them down the street. As an investment in minimalism, plotlessness and existential futility, ‘Police, Adjective’ takes its ennui very seriously.
The film classically pits the letter of the law against the spirit. Words are portrayed as the enemy, weapons of oppression for Romania’s lingering communist bureaucratic mentality. Its long periods of silent observation exchange the carelessness of words in favor of the purity of the image. This pure cinema simulates the phenomenologist writings of Frenchmen like Alain Robbe-Grillet, who dropped psychology and symbolism in favor of description and observation, believing the latter to be the only real way to the truth.
If you are brainy, you can come to appreciate ‘Police, Adjective’. This is good news. The only chance for this film is for the viewer to respect it. There appears to be no possibility that you will enjoy it. I watched ‘Police, Adjective’ in a theater all by my lonesome. For once, I was convinced that the rest of the human race was right.
That is ultimately the disturbing thing. This past weekend, I watched a film, “Inglourious Basterds,”that raises weighty questions of historical depiction and historical amnesia while remaining immensely entertaining. Watching Tarantino’s film, you’re transported back a decade to when indie films simultaneously felt smart, serious, and in love with the medium.
Saddled by funding issues, indie cinema increasingly feels the need to make a virtue of its downsized obscurity. The current indie drive for verisimilitude at all costs makes for intelligent films that are hard to watch. At worst, they feel punishing to the audience. In eradicating entertainment for intellectual authenticity, ‘Police, Adjective’ appears to continue the trend of suicide by purity.