Living by the Quick, not by the Dead; ”03.ByPass” – film review
by Magda Mihăilescu
I read Nap Toader`sinterviews and I feel besieged by some questions. Why so much preparing for a good project (the screenplay was written by AlinLuduDumbravă and Dan Stăiculescu), why so many uncertainties, going to-and-fro from the producer to the screenwriters, why so much beating around the bush? I might receive the answer that I ignore the restlessness of the author in front of the final form of his work, the impossibility of letting it out into the world, etc. I can understand the hesitations and fears of a Victor Erice: he signed only three feature films in thirty years, but there is a masterpiece among them, The Spirit of the beehive (El espiritu de la colmena), that can justify an entire lifetime. Let`s be serious, it`s not the case here. The local pursuits bump into all kinds of small teasing, moods, lack of decision and unfortunately, the director Nap Toader doesn`t dare to take the bull by the horns. With their inherent faults and qualities, The Italian Girls and Wedding in Bessarabia, are films that cannot be ignored in the context of the film production of a certain moment. The spine of a cinema cannot be held only with rarities. I truly believe that 03.ByPass had even better premises: just about enough narration to include the way the three main characters approach a moral issue; the three different characters are connected by the fact that they belong to the same professional field, viewed on its hierarchic levels.
A car accident, two victims, a motorbiker with a child whostops by from its racing, not to help them, but to steal from them, simply leaving them behind afterwards. He dashed offdown the roadthat runs amidst two rows of trees,image that is meant to be kept in mind. I think it will be more relevant than the geographical positioning. The case seems to be a regular one for the three members of the team from the ambulance that gets there on time: the doctor Monica (Medeea Marinescu), the assistant Lucian (Alexandru Potocean), the driver Doru (Gabriel Spahiu). They operatively exchangequick codes of their job, usually a monotonous communication if the driver wouldn`t have a colorful language; for him, the predators are the vultures that took everything. Despite the professional stratification, we understand that they are a team where there`s no place for formalities, or hypocrisy. The nights spent together, running to cases,cancelled the distances. The nurse and the doctor make sex in a mechanical, hasty way and that is no secret to anyone. Even the talkative, quick driver is not supposed to pretend he doesn`t know about it. And still, their familiar way of talking seems to have some boundaries, due to the nature of the characters. Monica is a young, reserved doctor who is authoritarian without being rigid, the assistant Lucian is somehow the observer typeand Doru, the loquacious driver is the one who brakes the monotony of the hours spent in the ambulance, on the road. Sometimes the author burdens him a bit too much. Out of nowhere, he starts singing The stone bridge(an homage to the composer Mircea Florian), a song which Monica will take up as well. The sudden intervention of the music doesn`t seem to be intended to cast away the heavy eyes feel, but on the contrary, to make up for the lack of an idea or, worse, to cover lacking an idea or worse, be the mask for a small talk about the old times, about generations and the “Communist old things”, started by Lucian. It is one of those episodes when you can feel the indecision of the author, the balancing between solutions. Unfortunately, we`ll find them again in the key-chapters, where the true moral dilemma presented by the film settles is. The three of them find a huge sum of money, hidden in the bed mattress, in an old man`s house, who was about to die. There are no witnesses. How are our heroes coping with the situation, with the devil`s eye? After all, they are only human, right?! The doctor sets things straight: this money doesn`t exist. Easy to say, hard to accept it. Especially for the driver, a simple man who doesn`t let himself carried away by subtleties. He knows that they are three fools in front of some money that basically belong to nobody, because the old man didn`t have any descendants. Our heroes` lives are turned upside down and the same it goes for the life of the film which goes deeper into the wildwood of the moral discussions. Cautiously, Doru even kept the key of the house, hoping that soon they`ll go back to the treasure nest. Monica throws into the fight the most uninspired argument, a fragment from a great intellectual quote from Kant, “the starry sky above me and the moral law within me”; the man`s reaction to that is his theory: “Fuck Kant`s theory”. It was a way out from the dead end that the author willingly went to, though he could have had carefully prepared others, as I imagined. I mentioned the beautiful road guarded by the tree lines from the beginning of the film, image that will come back again later (the cinematography was signed by Silviu Stavilă, and the editing by Tudor D.Popescu, at his feature film edit debut). I had the illusion that the author will be pleased with sending his heroes down that road, which in our minds was connected to the runaway of the dead bodies predators, in order to hint at an implicit devastating question: what is the difference between the Godless robbers and the ones who long for that “heaven-sent” money which they didn`t earn?