Adrian Sitaru's third feature Domestic
begins with the residents of an apartment building in modern Romania gathering in the lobby to discuss with their building president Mr. Lazar (Adrian Titieni) the pesky presence of one mangy mutt whose been hanging out in their hallways and stairwells instead of sitting safe and sound inside its owner's apartment. Some residents want to take the dog to a humane and EU-certified animal shelter where it will be warm and well fed. Mr. Lazar caught in the middle of this blustery crowd stumbles his way into writing a notice that is drafted by at least half a dozen people yelling and babbling at the top of their lungs. This is all done in one impeccably composed wide shot. The extraordinary thing about Domestic
is that 90% of the film is executed in this fashion.
Once the dog's fate has been decided we switch gears to Mr. Lazar's apartment where he is talking with his daughter Mara (Adriana Titieni) about whether the joke she is trying to tell him is actually a joke or a riddle. Mrs. Lazar (Clara Voda) arrives with a live hen, which she puts in the tub. The conversation turns to the topic of who is going to kill it. Mara declares she'll do it if she gets paid, and by the end of another masterfully composed one-shot scene, the bathroom wall in the background has been comically sprayed with hen's blood.
As much as we have seen a certain cruelty or disdain for animals, what's so wonderful to watch unfold in Domestic
is the eventual love and kindness each male lead of the film finds in an animal companion. After the accidental death of Mara, Mr. Lazar finds solace with her cat, Tzitzi. Toni (Sergiu Costache), who was in charge of taking the dog to the shelter, takes the mutt in when he comes sniffing back home. Mr. Mihaes (Gheorghe Ifrim) brings home a rabbit, whom his son Alin (Dan Hurduc) gets attached to. When he kills it for Christmas dinner, Alin is beside himself and adopts an injured, pigeon which his father eventually falls for. There is a light, humorous touch to Sitaru's film, its verbiage is off the charts with every family or neighbor talking a mile a minute. But since most scenes are just one setup, nothing feels chaotic. We're invited into each family's world, allowed to wander through the frame, spot each little detail of these people's lives, laugh and love with them. This is such a testament to Sitaru, his cinematographer Adrian Silisteanu, production designer Cristian Niculescu and especially the wonderful ensemble of actors.Domestic
is a small film with a big heart and a quick, existential wit (take note of the Christmas Dinner scene which includes a conversation on how UFOs are probably tourists from the future). Immediately and continuously charming through its running time, Sitaru gives us a lovely look into the domestic life of both animals and humans. As it is in the world of Domestic
we may not be so different after all.
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