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Bogdan Andrei Apetri Unidentified Review


Unidentified | 2020 Warsaw Intl. Film Festival Review

Unidentified | 2020 Warsaw Intl. Film Festival Review

Lethal Weapon: Apetri’s Intricate & Unpredictable Tale of Revenge Dips into The Swamp

Bogdan Andrei Apetri Unidentified ReviewAfter tackling social realism with genre filmmaking underpinnings in Outbound, Romanian director Bogdan Andrei Apetri doesn’t stray too far off the mark with his follow up sophomore feature. Unidentified is a crime drama that by way of an entangled chase that exposes both the underbelly of the Romanian police world, and the racism that lies within.

Written by Apetri in collaboration with the actor Iulian Postelnicu (Arest), Unidentified promises a traditional detective set-up, where Florin Iespas (Bogdan Farcaș) is the only cop in the office who wants to deal with several fires that affected a chain of cabins in the woods and resulted in the death of two women. He’s tall, unshaven, irascible and obsessive – a combo where some abuse of power here and there also finds a perfect home. On top of that, he is suspecting a Romani man, Bănel (Dragoș Dumitru), not because of strong evidence of his guilt, but for his racism.

The plot initially focuses on the relationship between these two characters, making Bănel the subject of manipulation and harassment orchestrated by mastermind Florin. When Florin’s real motivations are no longer concealed by the thriller’s recipe of suspense and riddles, Bănel is minimized once again to the role of a pawn, whereas his background story could have thickened a more intense disclosure on the systematized racism and Bănel’s reaction towards it. Yet Unidentified is hardly concerned with Bănel’s situation, and more interested in Florin’s espionage into a world practically controlled by his mind, eyes and borrowed money – which has its masculine intransigent style.

Following in the steps of the films linked to the New Romanian Cinema, such as Police, Adjective or Dogs, which found cracks in the system and dealt with subjects of corruption and the relative nature of justice and equality, the themes of racism and xenophobia are more often tackled in Radu Jude’s films, a director whose recurrent rhetorics don’t resemble at all Apetri’s narrative approach. Unidentified comes from a director who is sensitive enough to these issues but ends up being allured by twisted dramaturgical situations that are reclaimed by classic thriller tropes. Apetri masters the spectacle of the genre, but the fundamental problems at the dawn of the mystery are yet to be solved.

Rather luminous for its topic, as Florin is setting traps by day time in clean rooms, apartments, offices. Oleg Mutu’s fluid camera movements closely follow Florin, sometimes changing the perspective, but always keeping in sight his stature or glimpses of his bruised skin and sweaty hair. Apart from these intricate visual motifs and a recurrent classical musical score, Unidentified is neat and not too extravagant for its dark thematic ambitions. After all, a memorable crime can’t happen anywhere, and certainly not when deeper implications are left behind by the sound of bullets and smashed car windows.

Reviewed on October 13th at the 2020 Warsaw International Film Festival – International Competition. 123 Mins. Part of the The Fipresci Warsaw Critics Project.


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