Romeo Aldea (49), a physician living in a small mountain town in Transylvania, has raised his daughter Eliza with the idea that once she turns 18, she will leave to study and live abroad. His plan is close to succeeding - Eliza has won a scholarship to study psychology in the UK. She just has to pass her final exams - a formality for such a good student. On the day before her first written exam, Eliza is assaulted in an attack that could jeopardize her entire future. Now Romeo has to make a decision. There are ways of solving the situation, but none of them using the principles he, as a father, has taught his daughter.Written by
69th Cannes International Film Festival 2016
An alternative title that was considered for the film was "Recycled Feelings". See more »
Eliza, you have to do your best. It'd be a pity to miss this chance. Some important steps in life depend on small things. And some chances shouldn't be wasted. You know, in '91, your Mum and I decided to move back. It was a bad decision. We thought things would change, we thought we'd move mountains. We didn't move anything. I have no regrets, though. At least we tried...
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In order to let his daughter escape a corrupt country, the lead character in 'Bacalaureat' has to immerse himself in the corrupt system he despises. That's the central paradox and the moral dilemma in this film. Doctor Aldea, a surgeon in a small town in Romania, has one goal in his life: to let his daughter escape to 'civilisation'. This goal has come within reach when she is selected for a scholarship in Britain, provided she passes the exams with excellent results. When she is violently attacked a few days before the exams, there is a serious risk she won't pass the test. So the doctor decides to pull some strings.
But he has to cope with the moral consequences afterwards. Is the father still able to look his daughter in the eye, after having told her all her life that corruption is wrong? And what about his wife, who has made a point of never lowering her standards of integrity, and has paid for her righteousness with a low-paid and uninteresting job? Besides, how can he defend high moral standards when he is conducting an affair with a much younger woman? The doctor defends his moral integrity: the attack is an unforeseen emergency, and so exceptions to the rule are permitted. But does he believe so himself? Things are made more complicated because of his daughter's boyfriend, and her own doubts about the need to go to Britain.
The film looks at all sides of moral integrity, and doesn't offer straightforward solutions. In fact, a lot is left unanswered, as if the director wants to say that things are never very clear, and there is always room for doubt.
Apart from posing moral questions, the film also offers a fine view into modern Romanian society. 'You'll scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours' seems to be the national motto. The film offers little hope of improvement: the only character opposing this system is the doctor's wife. But she looks utterly depressed and, as the doctor points out, has only been able to keep her high moral standards because she could rely on his position.
Director Cristian Mungiu is able to weave the many different story lines nicely together, although some scenes don't seem to be related to the rest of the story. Probably he intentionally doesn't want to spell everything out. Life itself is sometimes ambiguous, so why shouldn't a movie be?
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