Where’s the Cat Gone?!

Domestic, Adrian Sitaru, 2012

Domestic because of the domestic animals, Domestic because of the domestic action, in domestic interiors, is yet another “interior film”. From a dream sequence to a kitchen, to a car, to a funeral and a bird cage, the camera follows the characters’ daily routine, interactions with one another and with their animal companions. A comedy but with a twist and cat, and a dog, and a rabbit, and a pigeon, and a turkey running through the living room; a funeral and a Christmas; a Romanian Jesus coming from the future and a Romanian Shakespeare, who’s Romanian only because he’s not black.

The film makes the public laugh, frown (because it probably reminds them of a similar situation they might have been through), it makes their hearts clench sometimes, but only for a split of a second. It’s still a Romanian film, long fix shots, long dialogues over a plate of food, an unexpected tragedy, a lost cat, and some dark humour. Adrian Sitaru re-enacts his short film The Cage (Colivia, 2010), adding some Lord (2009) flavour, and mix them with bright colours and diverse characters.

It all starts with a dream, and ends with the same, in a circular filmic construction resembling other two more recent feature films signed by Adrian Sitaru, Illegitimate (Ilegitim, 2016) and Fixeur (2016), which casts over the film a cloud of some sort of ludic fatality. Maybe it’s just a dream, or another artifice to characterize one of the neighbours in the block, or maybe a way of forecasting the tragedy that is going to happen. Who knows? What we do know is that the film starts with a funeral, ends with a funeral (the same one) and a funeral is the bridge between the film’s two parts: Domestic Deaths and Domestic Lives.

A chicken, a rabbit, and a child die all from the same block of flats, the first two die to become food, the girl dies on her way to get food (for Miti – the cat). The film’s action revolves around animals, which one is a pet, which one is welcomed to the family, and which ones are food? How young Mara (Adriadna Titeni) slaughters a chicken in the bathtub for supper, for a few lei and then nonchalantly take into her arms her beloved Burmese cat. How tragic is for a young boy (Dan Hurduc) to accept the death of a rabbit made into the Christmas meal, but how easily he disposes of the dying pigeon, which he actually saved in the first place. How these children’s parents deal with their kids and their pets. And then, there’s also Toni (Sergiu Costache) who offers to solve the “dog” problem of the block, because the dog barks, and smells and leaves hair on the halls, and all the tenants want it gone, accompanied by Mister Mihaies (Gheorghe Ifrim) and gives Mister Lazar (Adrian Titieni) the cat that becomes the only link with his daughter after her unexpected death. The animals are reasons for arguments, divide (for a short period) a father and a son, but are also what brings the characters back together.

Humour combines with a mundane tragedy, laughter melts into cries and cries become smiles (eventually) in Romanian interiors and between Romanian dialogues, with a bit of personal science fiction (provincial – and even nationalistic) “wisdom”, because you can’t always trust Discovery, but Mister Mihaeies will tell you how it all works. The dialogue comes natural, the grammar mistakes work their magic, and the family tragedy is real, touching. There’s no gratuitous drama, no over the top reactions, the former Lazar husbands live (domestically) their loss, they grief without completely losing their sense of what is proper and what is not.

Animals are part of life, so are funerals and neighbors likewise, and the film ends with a short fragment after the credits when all three combine: Toni, Mister Mihaies and Mister Lazar, with their animals, a dog (adopted from another neighbor’s doormat), a parrot and a cat meet in Mister Mihaies’s living room, where Toni recalls his funerary dream and demonstrates his singing hidden talents.

Review by Maria Mantaluta

P.S.: The film can be found here – and it has !!English subtitles!!

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