Aferim! DVD Review

Costandin is the regional sheriff of a small region in Romania. He has been hired by the local nobleman or Boyar, Iordache to find a missing gypsy slave and convicted thief. So he takes his son Carfin who is his aid to support him. They cross the region without much success and have to cross into a neighbouring region to search more. The problem is the warrant and power of his Boyar is not recognised anywhere outside of it. Once there, they find the missing slave and capture him and a gypsy child being used as a servant. The two tell them stories of beatings and sexual abuse dealt by the hands of their masters and owners. What must they do now, return them without question or let them free? It will be hard, as duty and money are both inside the deal. Blood will be shed and lives will be lost. A time to live and a time to die has begun.

Moviedrome screens an introduction to westerns every Wednesday. These are often introduced with the tagline ‘ When is a western not a western?’ Aefrim is a perfect version of a film that is not a western but is very much an homage of said genre. It has the form of a western, framing the landscape as bolder and bigger than any mere mortal. A space like its characters both vast and wild. It also has the conventions of these films,Strong good and evil traits,  sheriff and aid bounty hunting and taking a man to salvation or conviction. Then we have the gypsys (or other) that are those who have settled the land like another people. These people are then pulled off of the land to be sent to work for their masters. This said these motifs are mixed with images of ancient and modern confluences.

The differences are also merged within its frames. It is set in 1830s Romania and is a world away from the hell of the west. A place that was alien in its political make up and cultural identity. In truth however the film is a masterpiece of great personal cinema, homage or historical imagine. It has depth and intellegent weight that is refreshing. It has a story that is little but very profound. The performances are subtle against each other and have a natural grace. It is filled with profanity, with racism, with sex. It is so clever in its understanding of who we are and what we become. Think in an event of horror how we fail in this place. The DVD is dry in many respects but the film is awesome and will live on. You must buy it…

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