Tudor Giurgiu: Love Sick (Legaturi bolnavicioase, 2006)

reviewed by Mihai Chirilov© 2007

Two Opinions of Tudor Giurgiu's Love Sick (Legaturi bolnavicioase), 2006

The first film directed by Tudor Giurgiu features a threesome entangled in a conflict. There is an old saying: “Still waters run deep,” and Love Sick is its perfect illustration. Deep as the traces left by wounds. On the surface a scar may even look sexy, but the process underneath might be gangrenous.

Among the new Romanian film directors, Tudor Giurgiu (b. 1972) is, let's say, the most Western-oriented. He is not afraid of going mainstream or tackling genre movies, whereas his colleagues reject this approach for fear of giving in to artistic compromise. He does not see himself as an auteur with high ambitions and does not have the urge to write his own scripts like others do. He has taken good care of the overall look of the film even though it has a touch of the music video. Last but not least, he knows how to handle dialogue and how to make the film attractive to a potential audience.

At the time of his graduation in 1995, he had made a short film with a strange title: (S)he's Not Alone [ Singur(a) pe lume]. The story is quite provocative: a couple desperately wants a child, but when they finally manage to have a boy, they push the envelope and try again, in order to have a girl, too. They have no luck the second time around and their ultimate solution is to disguise the boy as a girl from time to time. What was shocking in this short film was not its narrative creepiness, but a certain visual delicacy—and this paradox was to be repeated 11 years later, in Love Sick .

What is this film about? Several things. First of all, a boy loves a girl. It is simple and effective. Despite the title, which is taken from the original novel written and adapted for the screen by Cecilia Stefanescu), there is no looming disease. What is more, one might expect a local version of Love Story (dir. Arthur Hiller; USA, 1970), that supreme tearjerker with terminally ill people dying in the last reel. The problem in love Sick is that the girl loves a girl, although it is hardly a problem. We no longer live in the Stone Age and have already seen Boys Don't Cry (dir. Kimberly Peirce; USA, 1999) or My Summer of Love (dir. Pawel Pawlikowski; UK, 2004). The big problem for the three main characters is that the boy who loves the girl happens to be her brother. And again, this is not that shocking either, maybe because we have also seen The Dreamers (dir. Bernardo Bertolucci; UK, France, and Italy, 2003) , but mostly because producing something shocking was not on Giurgiu's agenda. Or, if it was, it was so well hidden that you could hardly even see the blood.

At its core, Love Sick is a double love story, tender and painful, almost luminous but not without its dark shades. It could have easily turned into a story of an elusive relationship between the two girls and of a cruel betrayal. But the whole configuration, closed in the vicious circle in-between two “covers” (the two siblings staring out of the window into the night as prisoners of the darkness outside and inside of their souls), puts the film on more slippery and deceiving ground: that of the intoxicating affair you could run from, but never hide. It helps that the acting is so terribly natural: Maria Popistasu (Kiki), who achieved recognition and acceptance after Sex Traffic (dir. David Yates; UK TV, 2004); the newcomer Ioana Barbu (Alex); and rock-singer and stage actor Tudor Chirila (Sandu), who is the film's true discovery. And there are no shades of the gritty misery that is so often present in recent Romanian films?which is also helpful.

Love Sick never aims at telling or showing more than it actually does, unlike many first features, where the temptation to show off is almost palpable. The director ignores the appetite for shock that could eventually be wetted by the desire fully to exploit the sensationalism of the two love stories. On the one hand, such an approach might look like self-defeatism, motivated by the fear of going over the top and could, therefore, be frustrating. On the other hand, one could easily decipher his strategy of making the audience seek underneath the surface of things. No matter which way you look at it, Love Sick remains a film of smooth controversy, but never gratuitous. It is not cheap propaganda, but is strongly critical of prejudices stirred up within the lesbian story. Maybe the film is too glitzy and by the book, but it features plenty of inventive scenes like the country idyll of the two lesbian lovers, accompanied by a scratchy soundtrack of a fairy tale coming from an old gramophone that could break any moment. Love Sick is definitely frigid and the sexual innuendos are not enough to compensate for all the fatal attractions and addictions. There is even a surreal cameo appearance by a famous TV star, Mihaela Radulescu—an episode that is quite hard to define, except for its funny touch and relief, given the brutal final confrontation when the truth comes out.

Love Sick is not a masterpiece, but neither is it crazy. In its own sick way, it has a sense of hefty normalcy that has to be acknowledged.

Mihai Chirilov, Editor-in-chief Re:Publik

Love Sick, Romania, 2006
Color, 85 minutes
Director: Tudor Giurgiu
Scriptwriter: Cecilia Stefanescu, Razvan Radulescu
Cinematography: Alexandru Sterian
Music: Vlaicu Golcea
Cast: Maria Popistaşu, Ioana Barbu, Tudor Chirila, Mircea Diaconu , Tora Vasilescu, Cătălina Murgea.
Sales agent: MDC

Tudor Giurgiu: Love Sick (Legaturi bolnavicioase, 2006)

reviewed by Mihai Chirilov© 2007