“So Bright Is the View” (“Atât de stralucitoare e vederea”)
An Economic Take on Romania
“So Bright is the View” is a serious film from Romania directed by brothers Michaël and Joël Florescu that points to economic disparities and criticizes the illusions that people have had as a new generation, which has grown up under mafia-capitalist rule, is emerging.
Estera (Biana Valea), a middle class Jewish girl in Bucharest, has to make a choice between pursuing a job in Atlanta, working for one of the nouveau riche thugs, or joining her mother in Israel, which the latter initially paints in the most glowing terms in a series of letters. Estera’s father is in prison for unspecified crimes. She is expecting a baby, and trying hard to work out some sort of future with her boyfriend, Vlad (Robi Urs).
The film begins in the present, and then proceeds to explain the events over the course of a few months that have led up to the present. In the opening scene, Estera’s cousin Rivka explains that, in fact, her mother, in Israel, has been experiencing an “emotional decline for a long time.” She doesn’t feel well and she has had trouble with her finances. She hasn’t been making a go of it in a number of jobs, including cleaning buildings, and she’s about to be evicted from her apartment. Estera’s mother has been concealing the truth. A few months before, we learn that Estera had a “friend-interview” with Mike (Ovidiu Niculescu), the Romanian-American, who reveals himself to be an uncouth bully, determined to throw his weight around. When Estera comes to dinner with Mike, he torments his unfortunate wife even more relentlessly, about her aging skin and other infractions. He threatens to trade her in and Estera squirms in embarrassment. We learn that Mike has “problems with clients and creditors,” and that his job offer to Estera seems to dry up.
Then Estera finds out from her female boss that her efforts to educate herself in computer technology have backfired, as she has given the wrong advice to the firm’s clients and she’s fired. As if that is not enough, her boyfriend, Vlad has abandoned her, pushing Estera in her mother’s direction. Her roommate suggests that Israel’s bureaucracy will drown her. However, we know from the first scene what her mother’s Israeli reality is. The movie is filmed with an unmoving camera and one static shot per scene and this self-conscious approach calls attention to itself.
The Florescu brothers have obvious talent, and the ability to present the drama of everyday life but they have not developed it yet. They “use the concept of an unseen, unnamed New Jerusalem, always in the distance like a stubborn mirage, to examine labor precarity among university graduates and the appeal of ethnic nationalism during the aftermath of the economic crisis” in Romania. The film suggests that the allure of both Israel and America has begun to wear off as Romanians become aware of the realities of both those societies. Yet during the pre-crisis years, many fortunes were made in Bucharest, but not all of these fortunes were kept.