Like Michael Haneke’s Caché, Graduation begins with a sense of domestic intrusion and violation. Someone throws a rock through the Aldeas’ front window. Romeo (Adrian Titieni), the father, picks up the rock and, through the broken glass, looks out onto an emptied street. But director Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) deliberately sets out to obfuscate the offending party’s identity. Was it a harmless prank played by a neighborhood kid, or something more insidious? An anonymous warning sent from the State’s ever-watchful eyes? We never find out.
It’s this kind of white noise that Mungiu uses to build a sense of menace into an ordinary story. Romeo’s daughter Eliza (Maria-Victoria Dragus) is about to graduate from high school, but not before taking her final exams. After Romeo drops her off for the first day of tests, Eliza is assaulted on the street. Mungiu expertly assembles the scenes that follow with the intricate details of a de Maupassant short story. We see the world primarily through Romeo’s eyes, but we also understand that he’s under surveillance. There’s always something outside of his control that puts his family directly in contact with chaos. Graduation is an elegantly filmed drama about the ways in which a corrupt society can oppress the fragile equilibrium inside any family home.
Opens Friday at the Opera Plaza Cinema.