RYNA (Ruxandra Zenide, 2005)

Ryna, directed by Ruxandra Zenide from an original screenplay by Zenide and Marek Epstein, is, I believe, the first Romanian film I’ve seen.
     It’s something of a disappointment in that the first half seems to promise something of the (brilliant) order of Bresson’s Mouchette, but then plot takes over and the film devolves into antiquated melodrama. The film does pick up toward the end, and I certainly recommend it. Such a whole lot of this film is wonderful.
     Ryna is set in the present. Ryna is a 16-year-old girl who lives with her parents and paternal grandfather in a rural community in the Danube Delta. Her father owns and operates a gas station/garage, but Ryna does most of the labor. Her father is a drunk. He is also demanding; in the old style, he requires obedience. Ryna must dress as a boy, keep her hair cut as though she were a boy. Her close cropped hair makes her look like a death camp inhabitant; nevertheless, Ryna is a beauteous, sensual teenager, and three guys flit about her, including the town’s mayor, who eventually rapes her, with her father only yards away, passed out in a field.
     Films that live by plot usually get buried in it, and two things occur that are beyond my comprehension. The mayor, one would think, would kill Ryna after raping her, to cover up his guilt, but doesn’t. One would also think, because Ryna is a decent sort, that she would identify her rapist to authorities in solidarity with potential future victims. However, she is about to leave town for good, so perhaps her thinking is that she doesn’t wish to get stalled there by legal entanglements. The film makes clear that she remembers what happened, but then she lets the mayor off the hook. He should be recalled and slapped into a Romanian slammer.
     All that said, beginner Zenide is a gifted artist.

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