“Snowing Darkness”. Suffering
It’s not easy to represent suffering in cinema, because it’s an extremely delicate topic. Especially when it comes to the pain of a parent that is experiencing the tragedy of having lost a child. What is the fair measure of one’s tone while telling such a story?
In his third feature film, Snowing Darkness (2021), director Gabriel Achim chooses to display the suffering of a father (Bogdan Dumitrache) as filtered through his fragmented subjectivity. One that is acute, marked especially by the use of dissonant and disharmonic sounds, but also through a kaleidoscopic montage of flashbacks and fantasies.
Of course, this sets Gabriel Achim somewhat apart from the observational realism practiced by the majority of his generation. But the truth is that he has always practiced a style that didn’t care much for the dogma of the New Romanian Cinema – especially in Adalbert’s Dream (2011) and The Last Day (2016), and now in his newest film – and that pursued its own path (a difficult one, considering the five-year gap between titles), untroubled and adamant. In his films, dark humor (borne out of characters, situations, and lines) is combined with an always surprising brand of strangeness, a sort of soft fantasy (if one recalls the protagonists and the ending of The Last Day), in order to fake deep, heavy themes (including, or especially those that have to do with the relationship between man and God, always discussed obliquely).
Beyond its contorted form, which could render it cryptic in the eyes of a rushed spectator, Snowing Darkness has a very simple narrative thread – a man, who is an actor and theater director, seems to be haunted by suicidal thoughts after his life breaks down into pieces. The editing is summoned to reflect on this particular disarray of pain, by using fragments from various phases in the life of the protagonist, in his posture as a father and a son, as well as that of a stage artist rehearsing for what seems to be a non-conformist show, inspired from his experiences, while abulic, caught between the ideological fights (conservative vs. progressive, both slightly caricatured) of his fellow cast mates.
From this perspective, it’s not an easily-palatable film, and it relies heavily on the goodwill of spectators (however, without caring if it doesn’t receive any grace). But, Gabriel Achim adds a classical meta-discourse on top of this initial layer: life and fiction blend together until they become almost indistinguishable, becoming mutually influential, and art can help one overcome a profound existential crisis precisely by transforming it into prime matter, in a source of inspiration. Nothing new here, the only thing is that Gabriel Achim has his own way of saying it, with permanent changes in tone and mood – ranging from tragic to absurd, from funny to ridiculous.
This entire collage produces a strong distancing effect, which can also be read as a euphemism for indifference: we’re not compelled to become emotionally involved in the main character’s drama, but rather, to intellectualize it, however, this offers few revelations. Thus, the film oscillates between its two main directions – one grave, the other playful, mutually undermining one another – until it gets stuck in a sort of mannerism that risks keeping its spectators at bay.
Bogdan Dumitrache, Anca Androne, Rolando Matsangos, Gheorghe Ifrim, Silvana Mihai, Luiza Gherghinescu