The Turbulence After the Storm

Romanian drama CHILD'S POSE is a front-runner for the Golden Bear.


In CHILD'S POSE, a speeding BMW crashes into a boy crossing the freeway and kills him. When one of the eye-witnesses narrates the incident to the mother of the guilty driver, he uses props on a coffee table to describe the accident and, ironically, the ash-tray becomes the site of the collision. After patiently listening to him, the mother nonchalantly throws her cigarette ash into the now symbolic tray, and looks on. It is a gesture that immediately uncovers the woman’s indifference toward the causes of the mishap and tells of her intentions to save her adult son, preferably by buying the witness off.

The mother, played with phenomenal composure by Luminita Gheorghiu, has become a victim of her unconditional love for her son. It has reached an extent where she’s incapable of despising him even though he hates her authoritarian attitude and spells it out in colourful language. Yet despite her stubborn and dominant nature, she is vulnerable as a mother, and will do whatever it takes to save her child from trouble.

CHILD'S POSE is a deeply unsettling film and evokes feelings as myriad as those of the characters in the film. Rather than making it a police procedural, director Calin Peter Netzer concentrates on the emotional specifics and documents the traumatic consequences of a terrible misfortune. He shows, with alarming precision, a turbulent mother-son relationship that is severed beyond repair. The mother’s excessive affections have clearly done more harm than good. The camera movement is such that it appears to be pursuing the central character with an almost intrusive gaze, and that treatment lends more power to the already-compulsive mother.

Toward the end, when we see the victim’s family for the first time, we realize CHILD'S POSE is essentially about irreparable loss. Although it is a matter of interpretation whether the mother is trying to emotionally manipulate the victim’s family, one cannot entirely eliminate the fact that in the process, she too has lost. And that loss is as devastating for her as it is for the family of the dead son.