Sieranevada ★★★★½

IFFR Film 4

Added to: 2016 Ranked
Added to: Masterpieces of the 21st Century
Added to: People-being-People List

The sole reason you shouldn't make a "Best of"-list as soon as the year is over. If I didn't randomly pick this three hour epic out of all the possible films at the IFFR, I would have sorely missed out on something great.

Just like the two other three hour masterpieces of 2016, Toni Erdmann and American Honey, Christi Puiu's intimate drama of a family trying to commemorate a man's passing is ludicrous in its dark humor but succeeds in creating an impossible balance with the equally tense drama, just like Erdmann did earlier this year. For another comparison: imagine Vinterberg's Festen, but instead of putting the whole family in an enormous manor, everybody gets forced into the tiniest Romanian apartment you can imagine. Right from the opening shot of a city block filled with cars, we get a sense of this intimate, packed nature that Sieranevada gives us and we only occasionally get the time to catch a breath.

From the second we're in we get swung from argument to argument, family member against family member. Tears are shed and laughs are had and in all this more than familiar madness, we actually get to know each and every one of these characters. Even when the house is filled to the brim with some 20 people, we still see 20 different characters. Everybody has his or her own problems and they all shine through at the right moments with the right power. At a certain moment it isn't like you're watching a film any more, you're watching a living being. Every person feels connected to the next in some way and they beautifully play off of each other, creating scenes that are so memorable in their mundanity that they can't be overlooked.

Naming any character as the MVP here is an utterly impossible task. Every single person has a moment to shine and every moment is as beautiful as the next. Even when whole groups get swallowed by the darkness of the dimly lit rooms, thanks to Barbu Bălăşoiu's astoundingly simple, naturally lit cinematography, we still get a sense of these characters, swirling around, creating more lifelike realism than any film of its kind.

2016 definitely proved itself to be a monster when it comes to natural, human-focused filmgoing experiences and Sieranevada may just be the pinnacle of that. Yes, maybe even better than Toni Erdmann.

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