Review: Romanian director Cristi Puiu’s ‘Malmkrog’ is a dense treatise in fancy dress


“Philosophy bewilders the mind, ” rightly states Ingrida (Diana Sakalauskaité) early in the almost three-and-half hour running moments of “Malmkrog, ” Romanian director Cristi Puiu’s dense ideological debate involving five aristocrats at the end of the 19th one hundred year.

With that declaration, she ushers in the only indisputable truth their thinking will ultimately yield. This elegant diatribe of a film, based on a text simply by Russian theologian and poet Vladimir Solovyov, occurs within an intellectual bubble: an opulent and fully staffed manor house in the middle of a wintry Transylvanian landscape.

From the scarce information supplied about the cultured participants within this cerebral shindig, each emerges as an archetype defending a definite position or as is the situation of Madeline (Agathe Bosch), playing devil’s advocate. There’s a fervent Christian, the believer in the notion of the unified European identity and Russia’s place within it, one who sees war as being a holy endeavor, and a college student of the moral gray region between good and nasty.

Leading along with conviction in their delivery, the particular ensemble cast enthralls whenever possible considering the extent of the convoluted spiritual and historical dissertations. Even if some segments are usually invigoratingly thought-provoking in the same manner that the young student feels appealing with classical thinkers the first time, the format’s lack of stimuli beyond cutting between speakers soon turns tedious. In scenes conceived as stationary frames, Puiu plays along with depth of field just for slightly more visually layered results.


The bulk of the spirited talking is in French, which unassumingly reinforces the notion associated with Eastern Europeans trying to fit into the standards of sophistication that their Western equivalent have nurtured. Behind closed doors, various other languages are spoken.

As the opinionated bourgeoisie rambles on, we discern a parallel universe, that of the silent help that will wander the property as almost imperceptible ghosts. That some of the concepts disputed over fancy wine, such as the justification associated with violence or how leaders abuse their powers, keep the hypothetical for the practical under their privileged noses, stands as the film’s most compelling observation. István (István Téglás), the servants’ leader concerned with pleasing his masters, exemplifies this as he turns into a tyrant to his subordinates.

Two hrs into “Malmkrog, ” a significant event shifts the structure and filters the remaining topics through a fatalistic lens. In the long run, this duel of justifications on philosophical abstractions demonstrates that we continue without irrefutable answers on God as well as the human condition but the modes of discussion have morphed. Now the spaces designed for discourse are more democratized, immediate and toxic than a pompous dinner.


In France, Russian and Romanian along with English subtitles

Not Rated

Running time: 3 hours, twenty one minutes

Playing: Available on Mubi