Director: Calvin Peter Netzen
This year the Romanian film Child’s Pose claims the Golden Bear. It is the first time in the history of the Berlinale that the Golden Bear has been given to a Romanian film.
Director Calvin Peter Netzen focuses on the high-class sector of Romania which is hardly ever a subject in films coming from this country. Cornelia (Luminita Gheorghiu), turning 60, is miserably and intensely focused on her only son Barbu (Bogdan Dumitrache). She sees herself as a self-sacrificing mother whose only wish is to shower her adult son with love and protection, an unwanted love that he rejects at every turn. In fact, he does his best to avoid her at all costs. When Barbu accidentally hits and kills a child, this tragedy gives Cornelia the perfect opportunity to regain control over her son’s life. She is willing to financially sacrifice and willing to deal with the low-level corruption in order to save him from prison.
Luminita Gheorghiu steps right into her character and masters this unconditional, suffocating love where we, the audience, cringe at the thought of someone acting that way to us. The scene that sticks in my mind the most is when Cornelia puts on rubber gloves and rubs Barbu’s back in order to sooth him after the accident, which leaves a feeling that something isn’t right. The director uses the strange sticky sound of the gloves to show this as a barrier between them, one which is artificial but somehow protects Barbu against his mother, who even bribes the housekeeper to report activities in Barbu’s apartment right up to which books he is currently reading. She wants to know about his relationship with a girl whom she doesn’t approve of and then, somehow, does her best to destroy the relationship.
In the press conference Netzen explained that Child’s Pose is a yoga position but actually wanted to use it to indicate the position the child has in the relationship.
Both Calvin Peter Netzen and Razvan Radulescu, who wrote the screen play, said they were inspired by their own mothers. Their mothers weren’t as extreme as the character Cornelia in this pathological, mother-son relationship, but there is this tendency for parents to smother their children with either love or material objects and never let the child develop its own personality. This film also dives into the social class system in Romania. We see the contrast between the classes as well as the low-level corruption that keeps the lower classes economically afloat.
Netzen said, at first he thought this film would appeal to women to show how a mother’s excessive love could destroy, but then he recognized his own relationship with his mother where he could think about forgiveness, acceptance and understanding. I have to admit that I, too, could relate to the son who has a mother who tries to control the relationships around her, which is something that my mother also was capable of doing. I knew this film would win the Golden Bear. It had that mix of a universal theme which we could all relate to but, at the same time, did it with a unique story that was very personalized and had all the qualities that made the audience uncomfortable but remained compelling at the same time.