Film Comment Recommends: Întregalde
This article appeared in the March 17, 2022 edition of The Film Comment Letter, our free weekly newsletter featuring original film criticism and writing. Sign up for the Letter here.
Întregalde (Radu Muntean, 2021)
Romanian director Radu Muntean’s provocative new film echoes John Boorman’s Deliverance, though here the threat of violent emasculation is replaced with a more millennial set of backcountry terrors: bad cell reception, nasty smells, and various other inconveniences.
The story follows a group of urbanites delivering Christmas aid packages to rural villagers. While navigating remote, rocky hill roads, three of the volunteers agree to give an eccentric old hitchhiker a ride to a nearby mill. En route, their vehicle gets hopelessly stuck in the mud and the man wanders off. As the sun sets, the young do-gooders are left to spend the night in a mundane hell full of inscrutable locals, freezing temperatures, dirt floors, and constant bickering.
As with Muntean’s devastating Tuesday, After Christmas (2010), Întregalde’s intensity stems from its sustained attention to pettiness and discomfort, allowing the viewer to become lost in a morass of human detail. Muntean observes his characters in long yet dynamic takes: his camera settles on a face, sometimes for minutes at a time, and sinks into the character’s space before panning away. Like in the films of Hong Sangsoo, the act of reframing becomes a narrative engine, foregrounding the camera’s role in the storytelling. In Întregalde, Muntean’s searching gaze digs beneath the surface of an adventure gone wrong to unearth an incisive parable about charity and power.
Chris Shields is a Los Angeles–based film writer and filmmaker.